AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
MRS. GALUSHA ANDERSON.
ELLEN M. SPRAGUE, CHICAGO.
350 Marshfield Avenue.
SAUK VALLEY COLLEGE ^^. .
HANSEN, McCLURQ & COMPANY.
A. D. 1880.
9.. R. DONNELLEY A gONB, THX LAKSSISX PBE8S, FBrNTEBS.
This woman was full of good works and alms fleeds which she did
—ACTS IX, 36
It is prodigious the quantity of good that may be done by one man,
if he will but make a business of it.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed In this naughty world.
—Merchant op Venick
I have shoW' d you all things, how that laboring ye ought to support
the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jtsus, how he said,
it is more blessed to give than to receive.
—Acts xx, 36.
I. Early Days 9
II. Pioneer Life 26
III. Discipline 49
IV. "Aunt Lizzie" .... 69
V. In the General Hospitals . . .99
VI. First Two Years in Chicago . . 135
YII. In the Sunday School . . .149
YIIL Aunt Lizzie's Girls' Meeting . 165
IX. Among the Sick . . . .173
X. Labors Among the Poor . . 184
XL Labors Manifold . . . .200
XIL Prominent Traits . . . .218
AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Though a tlioiisand biographies of great and good
men and women have been written, there is always
room for another, for Imman life is endless in inci-
dent. Though the elements of hundreds of careers
are alike, the combinations into which thej are
cast are infinitely varied.
The Bible and Shakspeare are but arrangements
of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, yet who
would mistake the one for the other ? The beau-
ties of the sunset, though always composed of
atmosphere, cloud and sunbeams, change every
It has been said that nature never repeats her-
self. This might even more truly be said of human
10 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
life, and especially of Christian life, for when the
Sun of Righteousness pours his light upon a hu-
man soul, the effects are as varied as those of the
Many have thought that a life so rich in event
and work for the Master, as that of Aunt Lizzie
has been, should not pass away without some re-
cord. Her early life in the West, while it was still
a new country ; her labors as hospital nurse dur-
ing the war, and as missionary in the city of
Chicago, have each their separate interest. This
book is written, not only to tell the story of a noble
life, but also that other workers in the great field
of humanity may take courage from the varied ex-
periences and gathered wisdom of a veteran.
Eliza N. Atherton was born March 24th, 1817,
at the house of her maternal' grandfather in Auburn,
Cayuga county, New York. Her mother, whose
maiden name was Deborah Ward, was the favorite
daughter in a largo family of sisters and brothers.
There is often in such families one daughter, who
from greater amiability of disposition and intense
filial affection clings closer than the rest to the pa-
ternal home, and returns at every opportunity to
spend a few more delightful days with her parents.
Such a daughter Deborah Atherton appears to have
been. Although her home was in Albany, her older
children were born at her father's house, and we find
her often there on visits.
EARLY DAYS. 11
Thus it happened that little Eliza, or Lizzie, as
she has always been called, had two homes during
the first years of her life, being first with her mother
in Albany, and again spending months at a time
with her grandparents at Auburn.
John Ward of Auburn, demands more than a
passing notice on account of the moulding influence
that he exerted on the character of his grand-
daughter. Descended from a New England family
which had given General Artemus Ward to the
revolutionary army, he settled in Auburn prior to
1817, coming there from a farm in the vicinity.
When the little Baptist church was formed, he was
one of its constituent members. Always a lovely
and consistent Christian, he shone as a light set on
a candlestick among his kinsfolk and acquaintance,
and the earliest religious training, and afterward
the conversion of Lizzie Atherton were due, under
God, largely to her grandfather.
Indeed one of her earliest recollections is that of
standing beside him, singing the old hymns which
he loved, in the Court House, where the Baptists
at first assembled for both church and Sunday-school
services. He had a irood ear for music and a sweet
voice, and delighted to train his favorite little
granddaugliter in singing. It was in a measure
from his instruction and example that she acquired
the habit of comforting the sick and the dying by
12 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
the songs of a better land, — a habit, how valuable
and consolatory the wounded from many a battle-
Held could testify. At his house she was perfectly
happy. Her impulsive affection had from him a
return that caused it to unfold like a flower in the
She is remembered by old residents of Auburn
as a happy little girl, always singing about her play,
tender and loving to the little ones among the chil-
dren with whom she associated, trudging off to
school in the morning as cheerfully as to her sports.
When her sister Fanny was born, a feeble child who
could not walk till she was three or four years old,
Lizzie took her at once into her heart and almost
idolized her. Being six years older, she felt like a
little mother, and nursed and tended the baby with
the greatest devotion.
If Lizzie were happy in Auburn she was no less
so in Albany. Few see a more delightful child-
hood. She attended a school kept by Mrs. Murray,
a lovely woman, and an intimate friend of her
mother. Once a week she was taken to amuse her-
self at the old museum, and sometimes on Sunday,
walked with her parents in what was called "Jimmy
Cane's walk," the gardens of an old Mansion House,
that had survived from early times. What a de-
light were these strolls to the susceptible child.
Every flower that bloomed, every bird that sang,
EARLY DAYS. 13
found its way into her heart, and has retained a
place iu her memory all these years.
One of Lizzie's greatest delights was to sit in the
old First Baptist church, and listen to her mother
singino' counter in the choir. Deborah Athertou
inherited her father's sweet voice, and to her little
daughter it sounded almost like the music of the
angels. Not often do mother and child love and
cling to each other as these did. A perfect har-
mony seems always to have existed between them,
not only outward, but also even in their thoughts.
The mother cherished and appreciated her child, and
the daughter, as she grew older, gradually became
the stav of her mother's failincj health.
When Lizzie was about seven years old, her fath-
er took her with him to New York, whither he
went to buy goods. Such a trip was quite a jour-
ney in those days of slow travel, and was doubly
interesting because the puffing little steamboat on
which they went was, even then, still one of the
novelties of the New World.
They stayed some days in New York, and on
their return home Lizzie surprised her mother by ap-
pearing in a red cloak and hat, the hat made doubly
tine by a long white feather.
In March, 1826, an event occurred which changed
the whole current of Lizzie's life. This was the
death of her grandfather, Jonathan Atherton, of
14 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
CavendisL, Windsor county, Vermont. He came
of an English family of Lancashire, whose general
history can be traced back for over six hundred
years. They were eminently a knightly race, and
were allied with many noble families. Jonathan
Atherton was born in England, but came to this
country after his marriage, and settled at Caven-
dish, where he owned two large grazing farms. At
his death he left the home I'arm to Lizzie's father,
Steadman Atherton, the youngest in a family of
five children, with the understanding that he should
make it his home and care for his widowed mother.
Accordingly, in October of the same year, having
wound up his business in Albany, he removed to
Cavendish with his wife and two little girls, Lizzie
being about nine years old.
This was a great change from either the city of
Albany or the town of Auburn. The farm lies ten
miles back from the Connecticut River, among the
beautiful hills of Southern Vermont. It was a
little world in itself, with three immense orchards,
pastures for hundreds of sheep, and broad grain
fields. The house, built after the olden fashion,
round a stack of chimneys as large as a good-sized
room, was at that time painted red, and stood on the
top of a hill. Down the slope, shaded by the glo-
rious elms of New England, stretched a wide lawn,
while near the house, roses and a multitude of
EARLY DAYS. 15
other flowers made the sweet air of the mountains
sweeter yet by their fragrance. To the east rose old
Ascutnej, its green sides dotted with farra-houses.
As stores, schools and churches were three miles
away, the family lived much by themselves, and
many of the articles used on the farm were manu-
factured there as well. The chief delight of lit-
tle Eliza was to linger in the wood-house chamber
when the spinning and weaving were in progress,
or to go to the " shop" where all the mysteries of
making sausages, soap, and a hundred other things
could be seen, each in its season. Sheep-barns and
cattle-barns made grand play-houses in stormy
But though the place was so delightful, and the
amusements so varied, the real discipline of life began
just here for both Deboi-ah Atherton and her daugh-
ter. Grandmother Atherton was a trim little En-
glish woman, with white mob-cap and spotless ker-
chief, proud of her family and her good house-keep-
ing. She held very different ideas about the man-
agement of the affairs of both house and farm from
her town-bred daughter-in-law. Young Mrs. Ath-
erton did not know how to spin or to weave, to make
head-cheese or sausages, to see that the wild plums
were gathered for preserves, or the cherries made in-
to cherry-bounce. But all these things were a small
part of the work of the farm and were a great bar-
16 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
den to a person in feeble health, when added to the
care of her many little cliildren; there were ten in
Lizzie's trials were of a different kind, bnt equal-
ly severe. Her grandmother looked upon her name-
sake as a spoiled child, — a petted one she certainly
was. She therefore undertook to train her in the
way she should go, and many a severe look and
little scolding fell to the share of the sensitive
child. ISTo doubt it was all intended for her good,
and, in God's wise purpose, it no doubt resulted in
good to her, but the first effect was almost to break
her heart. She could hardly eat if Grandmother
were looking at her, and cried herself nearly ill
about it. Thus mother and child were drawn closer
than ever together, and shared their troubles. In
endeavoring to help the parent, who was so dear to
her, Lizzie learned many things which proved of
inestimable value to her afterwards.
Still, in spite of her trials with her grandmother's
old fashioned discipline, Lizzie, after she grew a
little used to it, lived a very happy life at Caven-
dish. Three miles away, on the other farm, lived
her uncle Jonathan Atherton and his wdfe, Aunt
Roxy, for whom one of Lizzie's little sisters was
named. With the children of this family she en-
joyed most delightful intercourse. She also made
frequent visits to a little village called Greenbush,
EARLY DAYS. 17
whicli nestles under the very shadow of old Ascut-
ney, and which ra illuminated by the happiest
memories. Here with her three cousins, the daugh-
ters of Mrs. Olive Atherton, many of the golden
hours of Lizzie's youth were passed.
Through the winter Lizzie went to school, always
loving to learn and standing at the head in the spel-
ling and geography classes, but, poor child, away
down at the foot in arithmetic, which she hated. In
the spring there were endless violets andhoustonia
in the wide meadows, and lambs in the pastures, to
see which Lizzie climbed fences even at the risk of
a torn frock, and a bit of reproof from her grand-
Li the Autumn of 1S29, Mrs. Atlierton was called
to Auburn by the failing health of her father, and
took Lizzie with her ; for her grandfather wished to
see his favorite once more. He gradually became
weaker, until on the afternoon of the fourth of Oc-
tober, the family were called in to see him die.
Even in that supreme hour the good man did not
think of himself. His peace had long ago been
made with God. Being assured of a happy future
through Clirist, he had
" A heart at leisure from itself, "
to think of the good of others. And so when Liz-
zie threw herself upon his bed in a paroxysm of tears,
with all a child's abandonment of grief, his thought
18 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
was " how can I leave this pet lamb of mine till she is
safe in the fold of the great Sheplierd." He resolv-
ed to make one more effort to lead her to the Savior.
" Sing," he said, " sing, Lizzie, of Jesus, sing
something that grandpa loves."
Choking down the sobs, the little girl began the
hymn thej had so often sung together in the even-
" Jesus, the vision of thy face
Hath overpowering charms.
Scarce shall I feel death's cold embrace,
If Christ be in my arms."
"What made jou think of that?" asked the dy-
"Because you love it," answered Lizzie.
" Don't you love Jesus?" was the next question.
" What makes you think that you do not?"
"Because," answered the conscience-stricken
child, " because I do not keep his commandments."
Once more came the question, asked with flutter-
ing breath, "Don't you want to love Him?"
"Yes, sir," answered Lizzie, "but I don't know
Her grandfather laid his cold hand on her head,
and repeated again and again the words, " only
trust Him, only trust Him," till his voice was hushed
in death. Surely John Ward was faithful even in
EARLY DAYS. 19
death, and went to receive a crown of life. His
last wish was granted. Lizzie did trust Jesus tben,
and her grandfather no doubt took to heaven with
him the blessed knowledge that, as he laid down
the standard of the cross, his precious grandchild
took it up to bear it after him.
Enthusiastic in religion as in everything else, Liz-
zie was full of joy, even in the midst of her sorrow,
and attended the funeral looking beyond the coffin
and the grave, and feeling the presence of Jesus a
The whole town turned out to show their appre-
ciation of the good man who had left them. The
funeral was held in the Baptist church, that he had
helped to build, and his fellow deacons were the pall
bearers. Other men in Auburn had perhaps been
more successful in building up fortunes, but none
succeeded better in building a character. He was
known and "loved by everybody on account of his
The impression made by her grandfather's death
never left Lizzie's heart. There has been no time
of darkness and desolation since, when she has not
felt the old man's hand upon her head, and heard
his dying voice repeating softly, " only trust Him,
only trust Him." "A word spoken in due season,
how good it is!"
When Mrs. Atherton returned to Yermont, she
20 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
left Lizzie to be a comfort to her Grandmotlier Ward.
In December, though the weather was so cold that
the ice had to be cut for the purpose, Lizzie Ather-
ton was baptized bj Elder John Blain, and joined
the Baptist church of Auburn.
She experienced in her early religious life great
joy in her faith, and it was not a faith which could
only manifest itself in joy, but one which brought
forth the fruit of good works. She began at once to
feel a strong sense of her obligation to the church
of God, a feeling which has always had its restrain-
ing influence over her. Her love for the gatherings
of God's people was no evanescent emotion, strong
at first and entirely disappearing in a few months,
but the outgrowth of a (christian conscientiousness,
which made her duty and her pleasure one and the
same. This strong religious nature, strengthened
and directed by her faith in Christ, prevented her
from feeling the temptations toward worldliness
that beset some. Even in her girlhood, the theatre
and kindred pleasures had no attraction for her.
When invited to attend such places of amusement,
she always replied, " I do not wish to go; it is not
consistent with my religious profession." I would
not present Aunt Lizzie as the one perfect woman
in the world. No doubt, like us all, she has her
faults, but in this respect, I would point to her
shining example, and recommend it to the multi
EARLY DAYS. 21
tilde of young Christians in our day, who act, alas,
so often from impulse, rather than from principle
in matters of recreation.
Duriui^ this winter she attended the school of
Miss Miriam Evarts, an earnest Christian lady, un-
der whose tuition she grew in grace as well as in
In the spring she returned to Cavendish, accom-
panied by her Grandmother Ward, who remained
all summer, on a visit. This grandmother trained
Lizzie in singing, teaching her many Scotch songs,
and was much interested in the farm, and the quaint
old people who helped carry it on. These were Ben
Cummins and his wife, dignified by the titles of
Uncle and Auntie, both of them delightful compa-
ny for the young folks of the family. Uncle Ben
tended the cattle during the day, but in the eve-
ning he could be found beside the shop-room fire,
popping corn for the children and telling long-
winded stories that never failed to be amusing.
His wife spun and wove carpets and coverlets, quilt-
ed and knit, and was as entertaining as she was
There was also a dairy-woman, called Aunt Hit-
ty, a precise old maid, whose bonnet strings were
always tied by rule. Siie was a devoted Christian,
and very regular in her attendance at church. One
snowy day she picked her way down a long, snowy
22 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
hill,— -the little foot-stove, that was to be her solace
during service in the cold church, in her hand.
Some gaj horses passing by frightened her so much
that, stepping aside into a drift, she fell. Tlie stove
flew off in one direction, and her hymn book in an-
other, her carefully pinned shawl blew away, and
altogether, for so particular a person, she was in a
sad plight. Lizzie, like a naughty child, stood by
and laughed, to the great discomfiture of Aunt
Hitty, instead of giving her the helping hand, and
thus gained for herself a long scolding, not only for
allowing her sense of the ludicrous to get the bet-
ter of her, but much more for doing so on Sun-
Lizzie spent the summer of 1831 in Albion, Kew
York, with the family of her mother's brother, Mr.
Alexis Ward, It was at first arranged that she
should remain there during the next winter and at-
tend the excellent school kept by Miss Phipps, but
her uncle changed his plans, broke up housekeep-
ing and went to Europe; so Lizzie returned home.
This was a source of great regret and of many bit-
ter tears. Aunt Lizzie feels to this day that her
usefulness in life might have been greatly increased
could she have had the advantages of a more ex-
tended education. But God knows best. He trains
his children according to the pattern in the mount,
and fits each one of us for the niche he intends us
EARLY DAYS. 23
to fill. Greater culture might have polished off the
edge of that intense sympathy which makes the
poorest and most degraded snre that Aunt Lizzie
not only pities, but also sorrows with them.
After this time Lizzie did not re- visit Auburn.
She left with much regret the church which had
given her true christian care. She would no doubt
have been still more homesick had not the pastor
of the Cavendish church, Rev. Joseph Freeman, re-
ceived her with great kindness. He was exceed-
ingly fond of music and invited Lizzie to enter the
choir. He often called upon her in the prayer meet-
ing, by name, to sing some appropriate hymn, and
thus overcame her timidity. Her love for the church
led her to join the young ladies' prayer meeting,
where Mrs. Freeman treated her with tender affec-
tion, and thus the good pastor and his wife joined
in training the young girl for her future work.
Lizzie did not neglect the opportunities for Chris-
tian labor afforded by her own home. She began
her work as a missionary among the men and women
who labored on her father's farm. Her merry ways
and kind actions opened the way to their hearts, and
her gentle words of warning and invitation fell
upon willing ears. Many remembered, years after,
the scriptures read to them by the little girl, and the
hymns she delighted to sing.
When her daughter was about sixteen years old,
24 THE STORY OF A UNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Mrs. Atherton's health failed entirely. During the
next four years, with the exception of three months,
the responsibility of caring for the large family came
upon Lizzie. She devoted herself to her mother,
shielding her from all unnecessary anxiety. At one
time, when Mrs. Atherton seemed in a little better
health, Lizzie was sent to Cavendish to attend the
New England Academy. She boarded in the vil-
lage, at a house originally built for an inn, and
occupied an immense room with seven other girls,
who, like herself, came to attend school. Once a
week, when a messenger rode over from the farm
for the mail, Mrs. Atherton sent Lizzie a basket of
good things. School girls are always hungry, and
we can imagine the feasts in the old ball-room,
when seven girls unloaded the hamper of fresh
doughnuts, cheese made at the farm, pumpkin and
mince pies fresh from the oven, apple custards, jugs
of cream, and great sweet apples. The others came
from distant places, and did not receive such home
dainties often, so Lizzie shared with them all, and
great were the rejoicings.
But her mother could spare Lizzie for only one
term. Returning home she found that her pres-
ence was more necessary than ever. Even for an
education she would not leave her sick mother to
bear the burden of the great household, and the
oversight of the flock of little children, sq she cheer-
EARLY DAYS. 25
fully put her shoulder to the wheel. It was not a
work without its reward. The companionship and
praise of one so dear compensated for every sacri-
tice, made every labor light.
Phoebe Gary's portrait of her mother, in her
" Order for a Picture," paints better than any prose
could do, Aunt Lizzie's recollection of her's:
** A lady, the loveliest ever the sun
Looks down upon, you must paint forme:
0, if I could only make you see
The clear blue eyes, the tender smile,
The sovereign sweetness, the gentle grace.
The woman's soul and the angel's face
That are beaming on me all the while,
I need not speak these foolish words:
Yet one word tells you all 1 would say,
She is my mother: You will agree
That all the rest may be thrown away."
SAUK VALLEY COLLEGE ^,^
The spring in which occurred Lizzie Atherton'a
twentieth birth-day was one of great bustle and ex-
citement at the farm. The eldest daughter of the
family was to be married and leave the dear old
home, to settle with her husband in what was then
considered the far West. Grandmother Atherton
looked over her stores, and selected her choicest
silver, her old English china, feather-beds, woollen
quilts and household linen, to start her namesake
in housekeepiuiJ:. She apparently considered that
her discipline had been effective, and since Lizzie
had submitted to her training, she turned around,
and, like a fairy godmother, showered upon her a
profusion of gifts. Mr. Atherton also was busy
selecting carpets and furniture, for were not the
young couple going to the wilderness of Illinois?
At last on the second of May, 1837, Lizzie Ather-
ton was married to Cyrus Aiken. Mr. Aiken was
nine years older than his bride, a man of a sedate
turn of mind, and Christian principle, to whose
PIONEER LIFE, 27
keeping her parents were very happy to intrust the
future of their daughter.
There was a large family gathering at the wed-
ding, and wlien Lizzie and her husband left home in
the afternoon, they were accompanied by several of
her friends. They rode over in the quaint two-
wheeled chaises, then in general use, to Mr. Aiken's
home in Claremont, New Hampshire. It was the
custom in those days for the family of the bride-
groom to give a reception and feast called the infare,
to the bride upon her arrival at her new home-
Lizzie's infare was held at the house of Mr. Aiken's
father, built on Sugar Kiver, near the town of Clare-
mont. The old gentleman was a master builder,
and had taken great pride in the convenience and
beauty of his house. He had even finished it off
with mahogany, even more rare and costly than
at present. The house stood in a finely cultiva-
ted place of about forty acres, and was built to
be the home of the family for generations. But
shortly before Lizzie's marriage an uncle of Mr. Cy-
rus Aiken had moved West, and settled on Kock
Kiver in Illinois. H e wrote home glowing accounts
of the country, and went so far as to buy eighty
acres and give it to his nephew, on condition that
he would come out and settle. The whole family
caught the "Western fever, and finally the place was
sold, when they all removed to the West,
28 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
On Lizzie's wedding daj'-, however, these events
were yet in the fiitnre, and the hirge family were
gathered together, for the hast time, at the infare.
Great festivities were hekl, Mr. Aiken being both
well-to-do and popular, and the day ended with a
grand reception and supper.
After remaining in Olareraont a few days, Mr.
and Mrs. Aiken, following the universal custom of
New England, made their bridal trip to Boston.
They went, as there were no raih'oads, by the great
lumbering stage, making frequent stops for the pur-
pose of visiting relatives.
Their stay at Boston lasted only a week, but was
crowded with pleasure. This was the first time that
Lizzie had ever seen the sea, and the great ships
coming from every part of the world. Boston in
those days had a much more extended commerce
than now. Then of course they visited that Mecca
of New England, Bunker Hill, and other places of
historic interest in the vicinity.
When they again reached Vermont, they found
that Lizzie's parents had packed all her goods for
After a sad parting from her beloved family, and
one last embrace from her mother, she turned away
from Cavendish to a life of hardship and trial.
The party that crossed the mountains in the stage-
coach for Whitehall, consisted of Lizzie and her
PIONEER LIFE. 29
husband, his father and sister with her two little
children. Mr. Aiken, senior, came West to spy
ont the land ; he afterwards settled and died in
Illinois. The sister came to meet her husband,
who had already built him a log house on Rock
At Whiteliall they took the packet on the Erie
Canal, the great thoroughfare for western bound
emigrants. If this mode of conveyance has been
superseded by more speedy modes of travel, it must
have been to those who had leisure a pleasant way
of seeing the country. Imagine crossing the State
of New York by a conveyance that gave one an)ple
time to investigate and enjoy the beauties of every
field and hill. Our travelers beguiled the tedium
of the journey by going ashore to gather wild flow-
ers, or to make purchases at the villages through
which tliey passed.
When at last they reached Buffixlo, they found
themselves too early for the steanier, and went out
to Black Rock, a few miles from the city, to visit
Lizzie's aunt, Mrs. Ann Ward, the widow of her
uncle Loyal, who had watched with great filial affec-
tion over the last days of her Grandfather Ward, in
Auburn. This was Lizzie's last visit among her
relatives, for a long series of years. Like an out-
ward-bound vessel, she had left home and passed
one well-known point after another, till now the last
30 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
familiar headland faded from sight, and she moved
ont upon the broad expanse of the unknown sea.
Happy it was for her that she was under the guid-
ance of a divine Pilot, and that her anchor of hope
was fastened above.
And now the trials of the party began. They
took the old steamer Detroit., for Detroit. She was
ttot very seaworthy as they soon found, for the sail-
ors were kept at the pumps during the whole voy-
age. They encountered a heavy gale, and most of
the passengers were sick. Lizzie having escaped,
went from one to anotlier, encouraging them, and
singing to keep up their spirits. At Detroit they
were compelled to wait a week for the Michigan^
that was to bring them to Chicago. Detroit was
larger then than Chicago, crowded with emigrants
and Indians buying and selling. On taking pos-
session of their rooms in the hotel, our party were
astonished to find that there were no locks nor other
fastenings on the doors, a circumstance that greatly
disturbed them, as they carried their money with
them in belts sewed around their waists. Lizzie was
hardly asleep when she was awakened by the light
of a lantern shining in her face. Starting up, she
cried, "Who is there?" Two evil-looking men
mumbled some excuse about having entered the
wrong room, and went away, only to return in an
hour or two. After this had happened for the third
PIONEER LIFE. 31
time, she pushed the bed across the door, and slept
no more till morning. During the rest of their
stay she barricaded the door every night.
As they sailed np Lake Michigan, they encoun-
tered another fearful gale, that drove them into
Milwaukee. Four of the passengers were shaking
with ague, so Lizzie turned nurse and hunted up
the huge medicine chest that her father had fitted
out for her, a miniature apothecary-shop, full of all
ill-savored and bitter drugs. They left Milwaukee
on the morning of a beautiful June day, but at sun-
down another sudden gale arose and the treacherous
lake was quickly whipped into fury. All night the
steamer tossed and groaned, but could not get into
port. No pen could describe the sorrowful com-
pany that gathered on her decks in the early morning
for their first sight of Chicago, the wonderful city
of 80 many hopes. There it lay before them, a
little patch of houses on what is now called the
North Side. As far as eye could reach the prairie
was crossed by muddy roads, in which loads of
grain lay stranded like ships in quicksands.
As the boat reached Chicago early in the morn-
ing the passengers were allowed no breakfast, and
it was nine o'clock before the solitary stage of the
town came down to the landings. Mr. Aiken se-
cured two places of the four in this rude stage; no
more were allowed to ride for fear of sinkinof the
32 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
vehicle. All the otlier unfortunates were obliged
to make their way to the hotel over the plank side-
walks built on spiles, the water gurgling close un-
der their feet as they walked. Those who rode,
however, were no better oif, for hardly liad they
gone a rod when they found themselves settling
down into a slough, and there the hungry travelers
waited till four burly fellows came to the rescue,
waded in knee-deep, and pried them out. Three
6uch adventures in a quarter of a mile so discour-
aged Mr. Aiken, that in spite of all his wife's pro-
testations he insisted on her getting out and walk-
ing with him. The natural consequence was that
they in turn had to be pulled out of the mud, amid
shouts of laughter from their companions, and to the
great detriment of Lizzie's brown silk traveling suit.
Their destination was Grand Detour on Rock
River. The only way to reach it was by wagon, and
they found a man who, for a hundred dollars, was wil-
ling to take them and part of their goods across the
prairies. The ride was a beautiful one, despite the
frequent sloughs. The prairies were brilliant with
blossoms. Rosy, yellow, scarlet and Ti'liite flowers,
covering acres of ground, intei'spersed among the
waving grass, gave the country the appearance of a
vast garden. There were no trees except in the oak
openings, along the banks of the streams. Under
the shode of these troves were found the log houses
PIONEER LIFE. 33
of the settlers, bnilt there on account of the shade
and the vicinity of water. Every man's house was
an inn, and the emigrants slept on the floors, some-
times as many as twenty women and children in
one room, lying on the mattresses and featlier-beds
they had brought with them. Our party crossed
Fox River, by fording it, and Lizzie Aiken, being a
slight little body, weighing but ninety pounds, was
perched on top of the boxes as they went over.
When they arrived at Grand Detour, how great
was their disappointment to find that the village
they had expected to see had existed only on paper
and in their own imaginations. In reality there
were only two or three large log houses, and one in
process of building for Mr. Cyrus Aiken. In their
uncle's house, crowded together in two rooms, with
sometimes as many as twenty-five in the family,
they began their "Western life.
After a few weeks the new log house was finished,
and Mr. Aiken and his wife went to take posses-
sion. They soon found, however, that they were
not the first occupants. When they arrived, at sun-
down, they were too weary to put up beds, but slept
that night on carpets and comforters laid down on
the floor of split logs. Waking in the morning,
Mrs. Aiken saw something crinkling along the side
of the floor, and glancing in the early sunshine.
Looking more closely, she saw, to her horror, that
34 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
it was a huge rattlesnake, making himself as much
at home as if the house had been built for him.
Their first act of housekeeping was to kill this un-
welcome guest. This having been accomplished,
Mrs. Aiken began to prepare such a meal as was
possible under the circumstances, but when she went
to the shelves nailed up on the wall, for the bread
she had brought with her, she found three gophers
complacently making their breakfast upon it. Cer-
tainly this was housekeeping under difliculties.
However, they made a joke of their misfortunes,
and having disposed of rattlesnake and gophers,
went to work cheerfully to set the house in order.
The rude walls were papered, on the puncheon floors
carpets were laid, and curtains hung at the windows.
The whole place assumed a cosy look of comfort
that might have been deemed impossible the day
before. The garden, planted beforehand, lay di-
rectly on the bank of Rock River. Indian mounds,
at that season covered with wild strawberries, were
scattered all around on the prairies. Lizzie could
stand in the door and see the trains of emigrant
wagons crawling along the army trail, half a mile
distant. The nearest house stood almost a mile
The gophers were not their only troublesome
neighbors, as the following incident will show:
One day, shortly after their arrival, Mr. Aiken in-
PIONEER LIFE. 35
vited two young friends to visit them. His wife of
course was anxious to be hospitable, and at the same
time to exhibit her skill as a housekeeper. So she
stiri-ed up some sponge cake and set it to bake in a
tin reflector, another contrivance for cooking without
an oven. Her husband stood looking on while she
made plnm cake. " What can 1 do to help? " asked
he. " You might see if the sponge cake is brown-
ing," was the reply. So, taking the hot, yet half-
baked cake from the reflector, he suddenly dropped
it from his burned fingers, and it fell all in a heap.
Still, Lizzie made the best of it, and said cheerfully:
•' There is one left." She counted without her host,
however. The fragrant brown loaf of plum cake
was put in the window to cool while she set the
table. Happening to look at her husband, who
stood at the door, she saw that he was laughing
most heartily. She missed the cake from the sill,
and hastened to the window just in time to see a
long, thin wild hog, called by the settlers a prairie
rooter, roll down the bank and swim across the
river, with her warm cake held carefully out of the
water in his mouth.
Indeed, she seems to have been unfortunate in
entertaining company. Some young gentlemen
who had purchased a claim beyond them, kept
bachelor's hall during the week, but came down to
the Aikens' on Sunday, to enjoy the double treat of a
36 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
good talk and a good dinner. One Saturday after-
noon, when her husband and father were three miles
away, fencing in a section which they had bought,
Mrs. Aiken went out to the Indian mounds to
gather a pailfull of sti-awberries for Sunday's dessert.
She had left her pantry full of good things, — new
bread, cakes, pies, all the dainties that taste so agree-
ably to men who have lived for a week on fried
pork and crackers. The strawberries were very
abundant, and she soon returned with a large pail
full of ripe fruit. To her surprise, she found the
door open, and on looking in discovered two of the
tallest Indians she had ever seen, coolly sitting at
her table, devouring her provisions and drinking
milk. Greatly frightened, she stood outside the
door and watched them. They eat like men who
never expected such a treat again. Mrs. Aiken saw
with astonishment all her bread disappear, followed
by loaf after loaf of cake and several pies, until she
began to fear that they would die. After eating
enough to supply any two white men for len days,
they turned and spied her outside the door. She
tried to say " sago, sago?" — how are you — but in her
fright used the salutation of another tribe. This
greatly amused them, and they laughed till the house
rang. Good-naturedly paying for their supper with
a couple of large plugs of tobacco, they stalked down
to the river where they had left their canoe, pushed
PIONEER LIFE. 37
off, and paddled away, leaving their relieved hostess
to get such provisions as she could to accompany
About this time Mr. and Mrs. Gardner, from
Michigan, removed to Grand Detour, and settled
just across the river from the Aikens. Thej were
young people, married only a few months. Mrs.
Gardner was a most amiable Christian, and there
sprang up between these two women, so far from
any society, a strong friendship. During the long
winter their husbands were away, weeks at a time,
getting out logs. Rock River, frozen solid as a
floor, was easily crossed, and so they fell into the
habit of spending alternate weeks with each other,
comforting one another through the lonely days and
nights. Together they prayed, together sang the
songs of a better land, when for days not a solitary
traveler could be seen passing along the trail, and
the lights in the windows of their distant neighbors
flickering through the falling snow or shining
steadily on calm evenings, were the only signs of
living creatures on the vast prairie.
But at the end of March, when the ice was
breaking up in the river, rendering it almost im-
passable, word came that Mrs. Gardner was dead.
Little had the two friends thought as they held
such loving intercourse, that in a few short weeks
the one should be taken, and the other left to jour-
ney on for years.
38 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Hers was the first funeral in Grand Detour,
When thej laid her to rest under the leafless oaks
of the grove, the whole community for miles around
came together. Over her grave they sang sweet,
wailing China, thoughts of their own distant homes
and hers giving the notes a power and pathos never
lieard except in tlie wilderness.
On the twenty-eighth of April a little boy, whom
they named Charlie, was born to the Aikens, fill-
ing their hearts with new joy and thankfulness.
But the next winter brought sorrow enough.
One day in October, Mr. Aiken came home very
ill. All their relatives were at that time on the
other side of the river, so Mrs. Aiken was entirely
alone with him. He soon became delirious, and
she did not dare to leave him long enough to run
for help. Three days she watched the trail, hoping
to see some passing neighbor, but it was not until
the afternoon of the third day that she was reward-
ed by the sight of a solitary horseman. She flew
to the door, calling loudly and shaking a table-
cloth to attract his attention. But when he came,
he knew no more than she what to prescribe, though
her great medicine chest stood by full of drugs.
They feared to do harm by selecting the wrong
medicine, so Mrs. Aiken was forced to be content
with sending for a neighbor, an old lady, who
came next day on horseback, and dealt out huge
PIONEER LIFE. 39
doses of calomel and jalap, while waiting for the
doctor to arrive from Dixon.
When after seven long weeks, Mr. Aiken was
able to ride out a short distance, he was met on
his return by his wife, who cried, " Oh, Cyrus, I
fear our darling baby is dying," and entering the
house found the poor child strangling with croup.
Neighbors were summoned, only to see little
Charley die, as he lay on his mother's lap, the
next morning. In her great sorrow her heart went
up to God, and as she seemed to feel the hand of
her grandfather laid on her head, she cried, " I
can only trust Him, and give up my darling."
Little Charlie, seven months old, lies buried on the
In 1838, Lizzie's Grandmother Ward died, and
left all her household effects to her favorite grand-
daughter. She had come in her youth, from Scot-
land, and possessed many family relics in the shape
of old silver salvers as well as bread and fruit dishes
of the same precious material. These, together with
her table silver, rare china, and table and bed linen,
fragrant with lavender, were carefully packed up
and forwarded to the West. But, by the same fatal-
ity that has followed all Aunt Lizzie's earthly pos-
sessions, these treasures never reached her. The
boat by which they were sent, was burned on Lake
Erie and her whole cargo lost.
40 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
In March, 1839, the Aikens' second child was
born and named George. In May they removed to
their new house, having lived less than two years
in the old one. This new home was about three
miles from the other, but on the prairie, away from
the river. In haste to be where Mr. Aiken could give
proper care to their crops, they moved in before the
house was plastered, or the glass set in the windows.
The family was very large, including a number of
men, busy fencing and ditching. Under the pres-
sure of this heavy work, added to the care of her
little child, Mrs. Aiken's health entirely failed, and
she was for months confined to her bed. Service
could not be procured for money, but girls were
tempted to come and work during the summer by
the offer of payment in clothing. At the time of
their greatest need, a young woman, who was to be
married in the autumn came to help keep house,
stipulating that she should receive Mrs. Aiken's
wedding dress and ornaments as wages. Money
was no consideration, but silk dresses such as were
bought in Boston could not be procured in all the
Three miles away at Daysville, lived an aged
physician. Dr. Roe, who, together with his wife, be-
came greatly interested in the poor invalid and her
beautiful boy. The good doctor carefully conveyed
them on a mattress to his house, and his wife gave
PIONEER LIFE. 41
them the best of nursing. This chano^e was a blessed
one for Lizzie Aiken. Though at first practically
bed-ridden, she gradually improved. The doctor
was a Methodist class-leader, and the only religious
meetings of the place were held at his house. There
were many who attended these gatherings and Mrs.
Aiken was most happy to meet once more with
Christians in their weekly services. Hitherto her
only attendance at church had been when occasion-
ally they could ride ten miles to Dixon. Her Sun-
days were spent in reading the Bible through and
through. The religious papers, the old Boston
"Reflector " and the New York " Register, "which
were sent her from the East, were almost learned
by heart and then lent to the neighbors. The set-
tlers were at first too scattered to admit of having
prayer meetings, and the only communion she en-
joyed with the saints was by letters written on
Sunday to the good old deacons who had cared for
her religious life in childhood, and other Christian
friends. Of these letters none remain, but the
answers to a few are still preserved, which show how
these widely separated friends poured out the wine
of their Christian experience for each other's benefit.
Mrs. Aiken's health improved so rapidly from the
rest and good care which she enjoyed at Dr. Roe's,
that early in the autumn she was able to return
home. She found that several families had settled
42 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
around them; everywhere new houses were to be
seen, in which people were living with unplastered
walls, and partitions made hy carpets hung between
the rooms. Among these was a family named Cun-
ningham. Mrs. Cunningham proved a most delight-
ful neighbor. She had a large family, six sons and
two daughters, little girls of eight and ten years;
but with all her cares found time to visit and com-
fort her sick neighbor. Whenever "little Mrs.
Aiken," as she was affectionately styled in the set-
tlement, was able to ride out, Mrs. Cunningham was
always ready to take her. Her little daughters, Mary
and Caroline, also devoted themselves to the invalid.
Never were they happier than when they could run
over and play with the baby, or sit on Sunday after-
noons, one on each side of their friend, and sing
the songs she taught them. There was no Sunday-
school, but Mrs. Aiken began her first "girls' meet-
ing," with these two attendants; she instructed
them in the Bible, reading and teaching them verses.
These children became thus one of the greatest com-
forts of her life, diverting her mind from her weak-
ness and pain.
Out on the prairie little Charlie's grave grew
green, but had nothing as yet to distinguish it from
the newer hillocks that began to cluster around it.
His fond mother often thought that it would be
sweet to have some link between her darling's grave
PIONEER LIFE. 43
and the dear old New England home. Her father,
knowing this desire, sent her, packed in the centre
of a barrel of home comforts, a tiny rooted plant of
the same sweet briar that perfumed the garden at
Cavendish. This little rosebush, with only three
sweet leaves, planted with care, and watered by a
mother's tears, grew in time to overshadow the
grave and fill the air with the fragrance of the New
England hills, so dear to the heart of every wander-
ing son and daughter of that beautiful though bar-
The next summer there came to Grand Detour a
young Baptist student of theology, named Wicki-
zer, spending his vacation in preaching as colporter,
among the scattered sheep in the wilderness. A
sturdy, black-eyed youth from among the Pennsyl-
vania Dutchmen, he labored hard to gather the
Baptists into churches. At Grand Detour he found
six or eight, but they thought it better to hold their
membership with the church at Dixon, ten miles
away, than to organize themselves into a feeble
church, too weak to sui:)port itself. Mrs. Aiken, al-
ways hungry for the truth, gathered the neighbors
together in her house, and Mr. "Wickizer preached
to them several times before he went on his way.
These were the first services held by the Baptists in
The Antumn of 1841 was a time of great sufier-
4A THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
iug and sorrow. There was much sickness through-
out the settlement and many died. Among these
was little Georgie Aiken, who was buried beside
his brother, leaving his mother again childless,
weeping for her children and not to be comforted,
save by that consolation which God himself be-
stows upon the desolate. To tins affliction were
added trials of a difi'erent kind. Through the dis-
honesty of those in whom he trusted, Mr. Aiken
•lost a section of land which he had pre-empted, and
the house that he had built upon it. So that in six
weeks from the time that they buried their darling
baby, the Aiken s were obliged to leave the home
made doubly precious by the memories of his short,
but lovely life. They concluded to leave the place
where they had been so deeply wronged, and to re-
move to Peoria. Mrs. Aiken's beloved friend, Mrs.
Cunningham, accompanied them as far as Dixon,
where they parted from each other with sobs and
The last of December, little Henry was born to
gladden the hearts of his parents for a short period.
Since they had come to Peoria, the Aikens had been
living in hired rooms, a circumstance that had
greatly distressed Mrs, Aiken, as she had always
been taught that money paid for rent was so much
thrown away. Hearing in the early spring of a
cottage for sale, she took the earliest opportunity
PIONEER LIFE. 45
of seeing it. She found a pretty white honse with
green blinds, adorned with vines and surrounded by
trees. Stepping into a neighbor's to inquire about
the place, she made the acquaintance of a Moravian
lady, whose motherly kindness and family of lovely
children attracted Mrs. Aiken quite as much as did
the pretty cottage. Finding the house to be all that
she desired, she persuaded her husband to buy it.
Her neighbor, Mrs, Banvard, proved to be the
mother she looked, and watched over her with
As soon as she was able, Mrs. Aiken sought out
the little Baptist church, then under the pastoral
care of the Rev. A. M. Gardner, which held its ser-
vices at this time in the Court House, and numbered
forty-two members. Here, as has always been her
custom on removing to a new place, she put in her
letter at the first opportunity.
In 1844, Mr. Aiken, being prospered in business,
moved back the white cottage in which they had
hitherto lived, and built a large brick house in front
of it, occupying the house before it was finished.
The dampness, incident to the fresh plastering,
brought on a fit of illness which prostrated him
greatly, and little Henry died about the same time.
In her grief, his bereaved mother turned with more
eagerness than before to the church for consolation.
She found comfort in entering into more active
46 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
service and working for the cliurcli of God. At
this time slie took a class in the Sunday scliool.
The superintendent, David Irons, with his wife, had
removed but a short time before to Peoria, from
Albion, New York. Mrs. Aiken had known them
from childhood and she welcomed them with great
joy. The past acquaintance was eagerly renewed,
and Mrs. Irons became the intimate friend of Mrs.
Everything connected with their own church and
denomination has always been very near to hearts
the most catholic in their sympathies, just as the
broadest love for hnmanity at large has never pre-
vented those exercising it from being especially
tender of their own families. And thus without
the slightest narrowness in her intercourse with
Christians of other names. Aunt Lizzie has al-
ways been firm and true in her own faith. As she
lierself says, " I love my own denomination, and
would love it even though it should contain a mil-
During the years of their residence at Peoria she
and her husband thought it no hardship to attend
the commencements of Shurtleff College, at Alton,
though they were obliged to ride over an hundred
miles in their carriage. While they were still build-
ing their house, the General Baptist State Associa-
tion met at Peoria. The Baptists in the town were
PIONEER LIFE. 47
fow, and Mrs. Aiken, delighted with the opportn-
nity to do even more than her share, entertained
eleven of tlie ministers, even thongh she had beds
for but few of them. A Large room in the nntin-
ished honse was fitted up with mattresses and
qnilts, and was turned into a most comfortable bed-
room for the pioneers who came up to the meetings.
Mrs. Aiken herself, according to her custom divi-
ded her time between leading the singing at all the
meetings and helping cook grand dinners for her
In 1845, Mrs. Aiken went home to Cavendish for
a few weeks to be tenderly nursed back to strength
by her devoted father and mother. "While she was
away, her husband sold the house which he had
barely finished, for half that it was worth. The
malady that had haunted him all his life, began to
make itself manifest. From this time, he gradual-
ly lost the power to attend to his business affairs.
His brain had been slightly affected for some time,
though his brave little wife had steadily closed her
eyes to a hundred things that might have warned
her of some such trouble ahead. But now, with
utter obliviousness of the result, he disposed of his
property for almost nothing; and from living in
comfort and prosperity, Mrs. Aiken was gradually
reduced to poverty. Still she clung to her husband,
refusing to believe it more than some passing
48 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
trouble, and struggled to keep together the prop-
erty that was still left.
In 1846 the church edifice, erected through the
most unwearied exertions on the part of both pastor
and people, was dedicated. I copy a little para-
graph from a later record, that gives Mrs. Aiken's
share in the transaction:
" Aunt Lizzie Aiken set the example to other
ladies of the church in asking subscriptions to the
cause; and it is related that she purchased the first
pair of curtains for one of the windows, with money
earned by her own hand in sewing."
In April, of 1847, Mr. Aiken having become rest-
less and tired of Peoria, gathered up what remained
of his property, and bought a farm of eighty acres
on the State Road to Iowa, twenty miles from Peo-
ria, and near a little village called Brimiield. His
wife had worked very hard during the winter. She
had tried to save what she could, and to earn money
by keeping a house full of boarders. Of course the
thought of quitting the city was a welcome one to
her, brought up as she had been to love the free lite
of the country; and she entered gladly into the ar-
rano^ements for movins'. It seems to have been her
destiny to begin housekeeping in unfinished houses.
At Brimfield, although the farm was all under cul-
tivation, there were but two rooms in their dwell-
ing ready for use. Mrs. Aiken took up with great
delight the work of fitting up the house and adorn-
ing the place, overseeing the setting out of many
fruit and shade trees, and the planting of a garden.
The village of Brimfield had been settled almost
50 THE STORY OF AtfNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
exclusively by New Englanders, who gladly wel-
comed a Vermont family among tliem. Mrs. Aiken
immediately commenced here the missionary labors
that had occupied so much of her time at Peoria.
Young as she still was, she had been sought out by
both pastor and people to visit the sick, look after
the poor, and lay out the dead. A peculiar gift of
sympathy and helpfulness was recognized in her
When Mrs. Aiken first went to Brimfield there
were no churches in the place. Union meetings
were held in the school house, which were sustained
by Christians of whatever name. Mrs. Aiken
greatly missed her own church, which of course she
could attend only occasionally. Dr. Henry AYes-
ton, now President of Crozier Theological Seminary,
but then pastor of the Peoria church, met a friend
who inquired after Mrs. Aiken, and asked " what
will she do in Brimfield without her church?''
" Give yourself no uneasiness on that score," was
the answer, " she will have a church in a short time."
The prophesy proved to be true, though the way
in which it was fulfilled could certainly have been
anticipated by no one.
After awhile, the Congregationalists became strong
enoutjh to withdraw from the meeting's at the school-
house, and form a church of their own. Mrs. Ai-
ken was at once invited to take a class in their Sun-
daj-scliool. Ten girls were placed under her care,
and became greatly attached to their teacher. Not
content with visiting them at their homes, and
teaching them on Sunday Mrs, Aiken used them
as the nucleus of a girls' meeting, and invited all the
young girls in the neighborhood to meet with them
at her liouse to sing and pray.
Though teaching in the Congregational Sunday-
school, Mrs. Aiken had told her class, in answer
to their questions, that she was a Baptist. One
Sunday, after morning service, one of these j^oung
ladies came to her and said she would like to
introduce to her her father and mother, who were
present. The father expressed great pleasure at
meeting Mrs. Aiken, saying that he had never
hoped to meet a Baptist again. They had left
Pennsylvania almost two years before, where their
parents were members of the Baptist church, and
had never happened to fall in with any members of
that denomination in their journeyings. An invi-
tation to dinner was gladly accepted, and all rode
over to the farm.
After dinner these new-made friends held a
prayer- meeting together, and the Baileys told their
Christian experience — how they loved the Lord, but
had never yet united with any church. They also
said that they were Baptists and wished to connect
themselves with a church of that faith. Mrs. Aiken
52 THE STORY OF A UNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
gladlj undertook to aid them in the matter. She
wrote to Dr. Weston, telling him the circumstances,
and at the time of the next covenant meeting of his
church, took her friends in her carriage twenty
miles to Peoria, where they were received by the
church, and baptized the next day in Peoria lake.
Mrs. Aiken joyfully told her pastor that now God
had provided a deacon for the Baptist church that
was to be in Brimfield.
A few months after this, the pastor of the Meth-
odist church. Rev. Lewis Atkinson, came to Mrs.
Aiken for counsel. He told her that he was troub-
led about his baptism; that he had come to think
the Baptists were riglit in their views of that ordi-
nance, and ended by asking what she considered
his duty to be ? Pier answer, as might have been
expected, was that in view of his convictions, all
that he could do was to arise and be baptized.
Shortly after, Dr. "Weston came out and baptized
him, and thus a pastor was provided for the little
Baptist church of Brimfield.
But before the church was organized much work
had to be done. Mrs. Aiken planned her house-
hold affairs so that she had leisure to visit all the
afternoon in the interests of the new church. Bid-
ing round the county on horseback, she found four-
teen Baptists with church letters laid carefully away,
whom she easily persuaded to join in the enterprise.
In the meantime, they held services in the school-
house, with occasional preaching bj that sterling
old pioneer and faithful servant of God, Rev. Joel
Sweet. He was pastor of a small country church
at Lamoille, and came over to Brimtield whenever
he could. He gave them the pure word of God
without money and without price, never receiving
anything for his services except an occasional tur-
key or piece of pork. About 1850, the church, the
result of many prayers and much labor, was formed.
God prospered it greatly, and gave it favor in the
community. Nor did Mrs. Aiken cease praying
after the church was fully organized, but on Satur-
day afternoons used to finish up her work, and then
run over to the house of her friend and neighbor,
Mrs. Deborah Alden, that they might together pray
for its prosperity. This they did for two years.
Nor did her own little church monopolize all of
Mrs. Aiken's heart. She kept open house for all
Baptist travelers, so that her house was called the
Baptist tavern. She and her husband took turns in
attending the meetings of the local association.
When it was her turn to stay at home, Mrs. Aiken
entertained the delegates as they passed to and from
the meetings. Sometimes the party was so large
that it was necessary to serve the meals in the open
air. The barn doors were taken off and used as
tables. Under the locust trees the hungry travelers
54 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
were thus regaled with the products of the farm,
and with fruit from the orchard.
Iler house at Brimfield was a source of great pride
and pleasure to Mrs, Aiken. It was so conveniently
fitted up, and suited her so well in every way. But
it was taken from her in a moment. As she walked
home from prayer-meeting with lier husband, on
the evening of the ninth of September,1851, they
saw that a severe thunder storm was gathering all
around the sky, and hastened into the house lest
the rain should overtake them. But secure as they
felt under their own roof, it proved an ineffectual
shelter. The storm came nearer and nearer, the
lightning grew more blinding at every flash, till
about ten o'clock the tempest culminated just over
their heads. The neighbors, watching its progress
saw a ball of fire fall from the clouds and strike the
chimney, and then scatter all over the roof. Those
within the house were thrown to the floor. On re-
covering her senses, Mrs. Aiken looked up and saw
that the roof was gone. With trembling limbs
they fled to the barn for safety, and when the storm
was a little abated, to the house of their neighbor,
Mr. Alden. The shock rendered Mrs. Aiken speech-
less for several liours, and it was a year before she
entirely recovered her liearing.
On going to the house they found every pane of
glass broken, every lock and piece of metal melted,
even to the wheels of tlie clock. The framework
of the building was all tliat was left, and that was
severely shaken. Several of their neighbors offered
them a home for the winter, but they preferred to
fit lip a new barn with some comforts to make it
habitable till the house could be re-built. In the
spring they entered the re-made dwelling, but the
beauty of the house was gone. It was quite inferior
to what it had been at first, and Mr. Aiken's failing
health cut off all hope of ever improving it.
In the winter of 1851 there came from the East
a family that at once enlisted the affectionate sym-
pathy of Mrs. Aiken. Mr. Chas. Day brought his
invalid wife, whose dark eyes and silken hair con-
trasted painfully with her pallid cheeks, to Brim-
field, in the vain hope of restoring her once more
to health. Her Christian fortitude in bearing her
sufierings appealed even more than her appearance
to the heart of one who had herself passed through
much sickness. Mrs. Aiken made herself truly
their neighbor, and when, at midwinter, the re-
deemed spirit went home to heaven, the mourning
husband and his two little girls turned to her for
When spring came, Mr. Daj' resolved to take
his motherless children to their grandmother, and
invited Mrs. Aiken to accompany them. The little
church, at this time numbering eighteen souls, also
56 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
wished her to <^o, that she might interest their
Eastern brethren in the place of worship that they
had determined to build. She undertook the task,
but without great success, as she only raised about
a hundred dollars.
While at the East, Mrs. Aiken went to Cavendish
to visit her own family. Expected by no one, she
drove up to her father's house, and entered without
meeting a soul to recognize her. Softly opening
the sitting-room door, she saw her father piling
wood on the fire. Her whole soul filled with sor-
row and longing, she rushed into his arms, as he
turned with surprise toward hei*, and bursting into
a flood of tears, cried like Naomi, " Oh Father,
Father, here 1 am ; you sent me out full, but I
always return empty."
Brothers and sisters came home to meet her.
Together they sat down at the table, all there for
the first time in many years. A secret pang of
sorrow stole over the heart that held them all so
dear, and Lizzie could not suppress her tears. Her
father observing her emotion, asked,
"My daughter, pray what is the matter?"
" Dear father," was the reply, " shall we ever all
" This foreshadowing of the future, which indeed
proved to be only too true, quite checked the flow
of conversation, and spoiled the dinner. But one
of the sisters turned the tide into another channel.
This was lioxy, who had just graduated from school,
and was eager to see something of the world beyond
the hills of Vermont.
"Lizzie," she cried, "dry up your tears; I'm
going home with you to spend a year, and make
you happy! may I not, father?" she added, turning
to him where he sat, distressed at Lizzie's emotion,
" My child," he answered, " I will decide for your
brother, who wishes to go, but your mother must
decide for you."
It was not very hard to win over the gentle
mother to consent to anything which should in-
crease the happiness of her daughters, and the
house was soon topsy-turvy, preparing Roxy for
her visit. It was deemed necessary to make her a
complete wardrobe foK the entire year, as she was
just stepping out of her school-girl life.
On the third of May, they finally started for the
West. They began the journey by riding over to
Proctersville to take dinner with their sister Sarah.
The whole family was again present with many of
the relatives, nine carriage loads having accom-
panied the travelers thus far. The forebodings of
the former occasion had melted away in joy, that
Roxy was going "West, but alas! it was Roxy, so
young, so beloved, who was to return no more.
The journey to B.rimfield was most delightful;
58 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
everything conspired to make it pleasant. Mrs.
Aiken, happy in the prospect of her sister's com-
panionship, could not refrain from often taking her
by the hand and assuring her of her love and her
wonder that their parents had permitted her to take
away their darling.
At Peoria they were met by Mr. Aiken, w^ho took
them out to Brimfield. It was a merry ride over
the prairies, now green with the springing crops and
gay with early flowers. Arrived at home, they found
a company of the young people of the place gather-
ed to meet them, eager to see the young girl and
her brother, in whom they hoped to find so great an
accession to their society. All were happy, and all
expected yet more happiness. Alas ! the elder sister
who followed Roxy everywhere with admiring eyes,
in eleven days, just eleven days, saw her die. We
will let her tell the sad story as she wrote it to her
Brimfield, May 24tli, 1852.
My Dear Father and Mother:
What shall I say to you ? How shall I attempt to console you
under the afflicting hand of Providence? God has truly dealt
mysteriously with me, your child. My dear sister Roxy sleeps
the sleep of death. How little did we anticipate such an event
when we parted. The ways of Providence are truly most in-
scrutable, but they are nevertheless all wrought in infinite wis-
dom, for God doeth all things well.
She died on Friday morning just as the clock was striking
nine. She was sick four days. ****** She never
seemed to know anything after the first day. About the mid-
dle of the day, she roused up and looked at me. I burst into
tears, and told her I was so glad she knew me. She raised her
hands. I leaned down over her, and she kissed me so affection-
ately. Oh, Roxy, how dear thou wert tome! ******
How strange that in so short a time she should become so in-
terwoven with my destiny. But she was so kind, so affection-
ate, so good, so in every point what I wished and what I loved,
that I do not believe that in the short time we were together,
I had one thought for the future with which she was not con-
nected, or one ambition, hope or wish but Roxy was in some
way to be the recipient. I feel bereaved indeed and sad and
desolate. ****** Is it true that I shall never see
her face again? Oh, how unreconciled I am! Was there ever
grief like mine? My father, my mother, I have, I feel that I
have inflicted a wound in your heart that time can never heal in
bringing your dear child, my dear sister, here so far from you
Her garments all bans up just as she left them. Her wood-
en trunk has all her little treasures just as she put them away
herself. I shall not have them touched. ******
How soon was my cup of joy dashed down ! How are my hopes
blasted ! I loved her to idolatry. ******
These outpourings of a sister's broken heart have
been copied to show how great was the aifection
that had been lavished on Roxy. There are pages
more in the same strain, which hav^e but one
thought — "■ liow I loved her and now she is dead !'*
Still rioxy suffered but little during the four daj^s
of her illness ; she was insensible most of the time,
and her last hours are most fittingly described by
Hood's exquisite lines :
60 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
*' We watched her breathing through the night,
Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life
Kept heaving to and fro. "
" Our very hopes belied our fears,
Our fears our hopes belied —
We thought her dying when she slept.
And sleeping when she died."
*' For when the morn came dim and sad,
And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eyelids closed — she had
Another morn than ours. "
Tliey buried her in a pleasant place on a higli
rolling prairie. They made her grave where the
grassy sod had as yet been unturned, for hers was
the first burial in the village church )^ard. The
sweet-briar at the old farm in Cavendish was des-
poiled of yet another slip to shed its scented leaves
where she lies, and every June the small fragrant
roses, which she loved as a child, blow and fade
above her grave, while delicate blossoms of the prai-
rie violet and the purple oxalis blend their soft
mourning colors with the grass that waves over her.
Poor Mr. Aiken was heart-broken; he required
consolation himself, and had to be comforted like a
child. It was to her brother that Mrs. Aiken turned
for advice. He reasoned with her, reminded her of
the many merciful circumstances connected with
the event, and brought her gradually back to be her
own cheerful self. It was in this trying hour that
the religion of Jesus Christ showed its power.
Though at first Mrs. Aiken could not rise above
the question, " Lord, why is it thus?" yet in the same
breath she said, " Hedoeth all things well." Surely
the Lord has led her through great and sore troubles
that she may be able to feel for and comfort others.
So great an impression has this sorrowful time made
upon her, that to this day she cannot speak of it
Soon after Roxy's death there was a revival in
the little Brimfield church, and again Mrs. Aiken
found that working for Jesus was the most wonder-
ful healer of her sorrows. To a mind so given to
dwelling upon the past in its minutest particulars,
and a heart so persistent in its love of kindred, an
afflii tion of this kind might have proved an incur-
able wound, which might have spoiled all the re-
maining years of life, had it not been for the religion
of Jesus. Christ, by giving His child something to
do, drew her thoughts from herself, and restored that
cheerful temper which is her most characteristic
It was well that she had something to occupy her
thoughts outside her home, for though she did not
see the impending trouble as clearly as did her
friends, she could but perceive that her husband's
health, and especially his mental powers, were fail-
62 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
ing. Many were the sleepless niglits she spent
thinking over the clouded present, and the dark
future. Her parents suggested that it would be
best for her to break up house-keeping, but she
clung to her home. If she left that what should
she do? Her brother still continued to live at her
house, and so long as she had his strong arm to
lean on, she could manage to keep the place in or-
der. Gradually, however, matters grew worse; the
farm was first rented and then sold. A few acres
and the house were all that were left, and even this
could with difficulty be retained.
In September, 1854, a little child was born, but
he never responded to his mother's loving kiss.
He came like a flower, the joy of a moment, born
only to be buried by the side of his Aunt Roxy.
Another such grief coming just at this time well
nigh crushed Mrs. Aiken. But God provided an
antidote. One of her intimate friends had just died
in Peoria, leaving a sweet baby, only a few days
old. This motherless cliild was brought to the
childless mother, who took him at once to her bo-
som and her heart. She cared for him as her own
child, and amid all her privations and trials, kept
him with her for ten years. At the end of that
time his father took him home, but only for a few
months, as he died when in his eleventh year.
The next spring Mr. Ward Atherton bought a
farm in southern Illinois, and moved away from
Brimfield. This left his sister very lonely. Hith-
erto she had relied on him, but now there was no
one to assist her, Mr. Aiken had become almost
like a little child, needing all the care she conld give
him. Their property had wasted away, and she had
no power to provide for her family so long as her
time was fully occupied in caring for her husband.
Before he left, Mr. Atherton wrote an account of
the state of Mrs. Aiken's affairs to his father, and
urged him to come himself to look after the inter-
ests of his daughter. It was however, some months
before he arrived, and in the meantime she bore a
load of care and sorrow. One day in the late
autumn, disturbed by the lowing of the cattle, she
went to the barn and found the poor creatures al-
most starved to death. Mr. Aiken had forgotten
to feed them. After this she attended to their wants
herself, and often waded through the snow to tend
them. Many were the bitter tears she shed, look-
ing at her husband as he sat sleeping in his chair
by the tire, with no more forethought nor sense of
responsibility than an infant. Still she clung to
him, determined to stand by him to the last, and
never forsake her trust. But when her father came
• in February, he saw that her health was rapidly
failing under the double burden of taking care of
the place, and worrying over the condition of her
64 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
husband, and he insisted that she sliould make some
arrangement, bj which she might be relieved from
this crushing responsibility. He offered to take
her husband to Cavendish and provide for him.
Mrs. Aiken could not, at first, endure the idea, but
at last overpowered by the judgment of her father,
the remonstrances of her friends, and her own con-
viction that they were right, she gave way. She
herself says, " God only knows the anguish it cost
me to feel that I was never more to have a home.
In distress and tears I sought God, and finally he
spoke to me, while on my knees, so plainly that I
could not mistake, that this must be for my hus-
band's sake, for that of my relatives and my own.
The decision was made between God and myself,
and I sliall always feel that I did right. "
Mr. Atherton's business called him home the
first of March, and he left his daughter to settle up
her household matters preparatory to giving up
housekeeping. Hardly had he reached Yer-
mont, when he was taken ill, and before the end of
March, died. We give Mrs. Aiken's letter to her
mother, written on receipt of the news of her be-
loved father's death.
Brimfield, March 30th, 1856.
My dear and honored Mother:
Your letter filled with tidings of woe came last eveuing.
Dear Mother, it is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.
Cannot you say so? Even now when the hand of God is most
heavily laid upon you, cannot you kiss the hand that smites?
Your husband sleeps the sleep of death, but mother, your
Redeemer lives, and has He not said " Because I live, ye shall
live also?" He has dealt mysteriously with you; may it not be
to lead you to call on Him? Commit your grief into the hands
of God — then will He enter into a still more endearing relation
toward you. " Thy Maker shall be thy husband." The gospel
of the Son of God with its glorious hopes, its rich promises and its
bright anticipations, can alone minister true consolation under
circumstances such as yours, my dear mother. The time is
short; you will soon go to father. Your dear Roxy you will
meet there too. * * * * From my heart do I feel myself
bound to minister t« the comfort of you now, my dear and
Our goods are all packed up and I am in great confusion, but
will write soon again. Cyrus is worse: I feel sad indeed.
Your affectionate child,
Thus did the same person who poured forth such
floods of passionate sorrow over the death of her
sister, restrain herself when called to part with tlie
father who had always been so indulgent to her.
Especially at this time of perplexity and darkness,
when she hardly knew which way to turn, the re-
moval of her chief friend and adviser must have
been a great blow. But true to her nature, she puts
her own sorrow aside, and addresses herself solely
to the comfort of one even more bereft. " I feel
sad indeed," she says, " Cyrus is worse, my father
is dead, my brother has left me, my property ia
66 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
gone; I am virtually alone in the world, without
husband, father or home." But she said, with Da-
vid, " In the multitude of my thoughts within me,
Thy comforts delight my soul;" and bravely took
up her broken life, to struggle on for the glory of
God and the good of her fellow men.
Previous to leaving Brimfield she wrote to Mrs.
Irons, in Peoria, giving an account of her circum-
stances. That faithful friend replied at once :
"Come to me; my home is your home, so long as
I live." So on the tenth of April Mrs. Aiken locked
the door of lier house in Brimiield, and left it for-
ever. Her brother had come to take her husband
East, and he drove her with her little adopted son
over to Peoria. It was a lovely spring morning;
the sun shone down on the familiar scene like a
benison. It was hard to go and leave the house she
had built, the trees she had planted, every pleasant
little nook she knew so well. As they reached a
turn in the road which should shut her old home
from sight, she entreated her brother to stop. He
did not wish her to look back, but she besought him
to let her do so. She stood up in the carriage and
cast one long, lingering look behind. She knew
that she should never have another home; she saw,
as with a prophetic glance, the long, lonely road
which she must travel, and gave herself wholly up
to the will of God. Once more she felt the hand of
her dying grandfather laid on her head, and heard
the faltering voice repeating, " Only trust Him —
only trust Him." The sad yet constant heart
responded, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust
For a few weeks, she took the rest, so necessary
to her wearied body and still more weary heart, with
her beloved friend, Mrs. Irons, and then turned to
face alone the stern realities of life. Her husband's
improvidence had involved him seriously in debt.
This indebtedness Mrs. Aiken resolutely determin-
ed to pay by her own exertions, besides providing
for herself and her adopted child. Her widowed
mother was unable to help her farther than by tak-
ing charge of her husband, so she was obliged to
look about her for some means of gaining a liveli-
hood. Her Ion a; and faithful labors as a Christian
woman, came to her aid in this extremity. Her
friends knew how gentle her hand was in minister-
ing to the sick, and proposed to her that she should
devote herself to such ministrations. During four
years she went from house to house, soothing the
aching head, caring for mothers and their babes,
doins all with such affectionate interest and unob-
trusive sympathy, that wherever she stayed all the
family became her firm friends. In this way she
paid all the debts of her husband, and still with her
accustomed, lavish generosity, gave away consider-
68 THE SrOEY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
able money. The following incident will illnstrate
this propensity to help all the suffering at her own
An Eastern lady, visiting in Peoria, became
deeply interested in Mrs. Aiken, and said to her that
she might easily make money by the sale of a pat-
ent medicine which she considered excellent. She
proved her friendship by giving her fifty dollars'
worth. To this Mrs. Aiken added fifty dollars from'
her own little store, and started out to make her
fortune. But for her to live was to give; every sick
widow or sewing-girl who needed the medicine
had a bottle without money and without price. It
naturally followed that when the accounts were
squared up, she had a balance on hand of only twen-
ty-five dollars. With difficulty she procured more
money and started anew. But her fresh suppl}^ did
not last long. "The poor ye have with you always,
and whensoever ye will ye may do them good" has
always been Mrs. Aiken's motto. Pier medicine
was popular, it cured people for nothing. When the
second supply was gone, there was no money left
to buy more, so she gave up the idea of making
her fortune, and confined herself to the care of the
The spring and summer of 1861, ushered in by
the booming of cannon at Fort Sumter, brought
events that filled the hearts of all lovers of their
country with sadness and foreboding. Hardly had
the necessity for their presence arisen, when true-
hearted women made their way to the hospitals and
battle-fields of the East, carrying comfort and cheer
to many desolate spirits. In the West the con-
flict did not begin so early, though training camps
were established in the vicinity of many towns.
Near Peoria were stationed the troops enlisted in
that city. The blood that flowed in Mrs. Aiken's
veins had not lost the patriotic ardor that distin-
guished her ancestors in the Revolutionary war.
She immediately joined the company of ladies who
visited their relatives in the camp, and exerted herself
for the comfort of tliose who had no near friends to
supply them with many things which, though con-
sidered absolute necessaries of life at home, are un-
known in army life. As opportunity offered, she
70 THE STORY OF A UNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
gave herself to missionary labors among the sol-
diers. Her little bag was full of tracts, which were
presented with such tender solicitude that the most
indifferent could not refuse to take them.
In October the want of nurses began to be felt
in the Illinois camps. Just outside of Springfield
was Camp Butler, filled with recruits, many of
whom were sick with the measles. The head-sur-
geon of the Sixth Illinois Cavalry, " Gov. Yates'
Legion," Major Niglas, of Peoria, returned home,
anxious to find competent nurses to assist him.
Nor was he alone in his solicitude; the mothers of
Peoria had sons in the camp, and many of them
came and implored Mrs. Aiken to go and care for
them. Her own love of her country, and her heart
filled with sympathy for the suffering soldiers re-
sponded to the appeal, and she consented to accom-
pany Major Niglas, provided some lady could be
found to join her. An advertisement for such a per-
son was put in the local papers, and the next morn-
ing Mrs. Mai'y Sturgis, a widow, presented herself
and was gladly accepted. The two nurses were about
the same age, and at once took the greatest liking to
each other. Both were earnest Christian women,
both were alone in the world ; Mrs. Sturgis a widow,
Mrs. Aiken having no home, on account of her hus-
But all of Mrs. Aiken's friends were not in favor
"AUNT LIZZIE." 71
of her new occupation. Mr. Irons, who afterwards
raised a regiment of which he was colonel, was at
this time absent from home. He wrote decidedly
opposing the move, portraying the dangers of cap-
ture. " The rebels, " he says " into whose hands
you may fall, will not be liable to show you any
particular favors or mercy in consideration of your
being women. Men who can strip and tar and
feather school-mistresses, as they have done, would
not show nurses in our army much respect. My
opinion is that unless you can jump over a ten rail
fence, run a mile, and swim a river, you had better
not go. "
Nevertheless, in October, the two ladies and Mrs.
Sturgis' daughter Mary accompanied Major Niglas
when he returned to Camp Butler. They found
in the Major a kind friend, who looked after their
welfare so long as they were with the regiment.
They reached Springfield toward nightfall, and tak-
ing a carriage, rode the six or seven miles to camp,
through the quiet fields flooded with the radiance
of the full moon. Nothing could hav^e seemed more
remote from war and its distresses than this peaceful
pi'airie. On reaching the camp, they found that
they were expected. A new tent had been provid-
ed for them, just opposite the long row of hospital
Major Niglas, to spare them the sight of misery
72 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
that thej were too tired to relieve, bade them rest
before going on duty. They found that their beds
consisted of a load of straw and some blankets, no
cots having yet been provided. Taking their car-
pet-bags for pillows tlie3' attempted to sleep; but in
vain. The groans of the sick, and cries of " order-
ly, orderl}^, oh! bring me some water," filled their
hearts with pity, and they passed most of the night
in standing at the door of their tent, watching the
orderlies as they hurried about attending to the suf-
ferers. Very early in the morning, they besought
the surgeon to permit them to go on duty imme-
diately, and were allowed to enter upon their four
years' work. The surgeon took them into the hos-
pital tents where the sick lay in their red flannel
shirts, with no beds but their blankets spread on the
ground, their faces and hands scarlet with the mea-
sles. The poor fellows were overcome with grati-
tude. They thanked the ladies over and over again
for coming to them, and implored tliem for aid.
They wished to know the names of these kind
friends who were to fill the places of their mothers,
and asked Major Niglas to let them use some ap-
pellations less formal than Madam in addressing
them. So the surgeon, turning to Mrs. Sturgis
who stood at his right, said "you may call this lady
'Mother,' and the lady at my left you may call
' Aunt Lizzie.' " " Mother " and " Aunt Lizzie "
"AUNT lizzie:' 73
tliej continue to be to this day, in the grateful
hearts of ma.r\j of their " boys."
Obviously the first necessity to be met was to
provide beds for the sick, who were lying on the
damp ground. Mother and Aunt Lizzie determined
to call upon the loyal ladies of Springfield for aid,
and made it their first business to see them. The
ladies of Springfield called a meeting at once, and
filled with gladness the hearts of the nurses by pro-
viding them liberally with tents, cots and bedding.
"When our nurses returned to camp they were or-
dered to be on duty day and night, relieving each
other every six hours. They did not require much
time to set their own affairs in order. They had
brought nothing from Peoria but their carpet-bags
and an extra waterproof suit. Aunt Lizzie's half
of the night was from six o'clock to midnight.
There were eighty patients. The surgeon gave her
orders and medicine for them all, and then led her
to a tent where were two men lying on the ground,
who, he told her, must soon die. In the stormy
autumn night, the old tent flapping in the wind,
the rain beating a requiem against the canvas, she
knelt down on the damp earth between the dying
men and prayed, while the tired detail leaned
against the tent post, holding a lantern that shed a
dim light on their wan faces. There, so near their
homes and those who loved them, and yet as com-
74 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
fortless as if far in the wilderness, the soldiers en-
trusted messages to Aunt Lizzie and wept while
she prayed with them. The next day they both
died. For several weeks the nurses worked night
and day, each day's record being similar to the first.
In November the regiment was ordered toShaw-
neetown, on the Ohio River, to go into winter quar-
ters. The sick begged and prayed so hard to go
with Mother and Aunt Lizzie that the doctor con-
cluded that they would die if left behind, and that
they could no more than die if they went. Baggage
cars were secured and the men were safely transferred
on their mattresses to them. All night the devoted
nurses went from car to car with their medicines
and hot drinks for the sick. Singularly enough,
not one died from the exposure. At Cairo all were
put on board the steamer " Montgomery," and pass-
ing up the Ohio River, arrived safely at Shawnee-
town, Illinois. Here they found a large stone
building already -partially fitted up as a hospital.
One little room was assign'^d to the ladies. The
carpenter had built two bert . against the wall;
these, filled with straw, without pillows, were their
beds. Though rude, they were comfortable, as a
comical little incident shows: Once when at mid-
night Aunt Lizzie crept into her berth, she was
startled by a mouse that ran under her hand.
Though a very .brave t/peman, she could not sleep
''AUNT lizzie:' 75
in peace with a mouse in her bed. In dismay she
jumped out upon the floor, the little creature
following her. She now thought that the coast was
clear and that she might return to her couch, but,
on lying down, she found the mouse had made a
nest in the corner, and five little fellows began to
squirm and squeak. Much sleep that night was out
of the question.
All winter the nurses worked day and night,
six hours of service alternating with six of rest.
Aunt Lizzie passed a busy winter. Every after-
noon she accompanied the doctor, carrying the ink-
stand, telling the name and symptoms of each pa-
tient in the four wards, and giving full information
concerning all new cases. She also superintended
the changing of bed linen, the administration of
medicine, the laying out of the dead, beside calling
the roll at six o'clock in the morning and nine at
night. The number of the sick varied from twenty
to eighty all winter.
There came weeks wlien their comforts were very
few, when the pooi ick boys were compelled to
live on corn-bread and bean-coffee. Then to cheer
them. Aunt Lizzie read a ballad descriptive of the
sufferings of the Revolutionary soldiers at Yalley
Forge, but hardly with the result at which she
aimed. " I wept," she writes, "my poor boys wept,
the ofiicers wept, we felt the- verses to be so appro-
priate to our circumstances."
76 THE SrORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
One stormy afternoon several patients were
brought in. Among them was a man about thirty-
five years old, ill with rlieumatism. He was very
cross. Indeed, as Annt Lizzie passed along, his com-
rades told her in whispers how very ill-natured he
was, and besought her not to mind him if he were
petulant with her. The man had been a shoemaker
and had taken his kit of tools into camp with him.
When he was brought to the hospital the surgeon
allowed him to keep it under his pillow. Aunt
Lizzie spied these tools as she came in with his sup-
per on a little tray, and divining at once his fond-
ness for them, and the home-sickness that made
him cling to anything connected with his former
life, thought to herself how she might cheer him.
A silly little song about a shoemaker, that she had
learned when a girl, came into her mind, and in-
stantly she began to sing it, with its rattling chorus.
" With a rang- tang- tang diddle-do."
This set all the sick men into a roar of laughter,
and pleased the cross shoemaker so much, that he
forgot to be ill-natured from this time on. As for
Aunt Lizzie, he almost worshipped her, and often re-
quested her to sing " his little song." The foolish
ditty helped him more than medicine, and filled a
niche in the world of which its writer probably
Aunt Lizzie's cheerfulness and ready tact won
''AUNT lizzie:' 77
her many friends, who did not forget her when they
left the hospital. Their bill of fare had been for a
long time soup, rice, barley, coffee, or what passed
for it, with molasses to sweeten it, and bread baked
by an old woman in the village, not always very ap-
petizing. One day Annt Lizzie went into the dis-
pensary for medicine, when a young man, who had
been discharged from the hospital as cured, came in
ostensibly on the same errand. His real business,
however, was to smuggle a hot mince pie to Aunt
Lizzie. In the goodness of his heart he had bought
it for her as a great luxury, but unfortunately he
did not understand the nature of pies, and, in order
to carry it safely, put it under his arm, inside his
overcoat. Of course the contents all ran out, and,
as it was against the rules to bring food into the
hospital, he stood in danger of being sent to the
guard-house. But Aunt Lizzie came to the rescue
by taking all the responsibility upon herself. She
stepped up to him, as he stood in blank dismay at
the disaster, and took the pie saying, " Ah, Tom,
my boy, you did bring my pie, didn't you?" The
poor fellow was greatly chagrined at the failure of
his plan to procure a good dinner for his kind
In January, 1862, Aunt Lizzie writes:
" Quite a little incident took place j'esterday; we, as nurses,
were sworn into the United States' service. * ♦ * * Dj._
78 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Niglas tells me I have saved the lives of over four hundred men.
I am afraid I hardly deserve the compliment. General Grant,
General Sturgis, and General Sherman paid us a visit. All
join in saying we excel all other hospitals in being attentive to
our sick and in cleanliness. They suggested my going to Cairo.
Dr. Nig' as spurned the proposition, and I did too. I cannot
tell you how well this work suits this restless heart of mine;
my great desire to do something to benefit my fellow-creatures
is gratified in my present occupation."
In February, Forts Henry and Donelson were
captured by the Union army under General Grant.
The soldiers, though victors in the end, endured
untold suiFering. Daring four nights of the bit-
terest weather, they encamped around Fort Donel-
son in the driving storm, without tents or fire, and
many were destitute even of blankets. The wound-
ed lay moaning on the snow, their cries growing
fainter and fainter as they froze to death on the
cold ground. As soon as possible, those who sur-
vived were placed on boats and taken down the
river to the hospitals, many of them to Shawnee-
town. The first boat arrived with its burden of grief
and suffering under the dark shadow of a stormy,
wintry night. The surgeon came to the ward where
Aunt Lizzie was giving medicine, and said, "Aunt
Lizzie, the wounded from Fort Donelson have come,
cannot you go down and help them disembark?"
It was the first time that any w^ounded had been
brought under her care. To sickness in almost
all its forms she had become accustomed. With
'*AUNT LIZZIEr 79
a heavy heart she walked through the rain to
the boat, with four soldiers detailed to assist her.
Wlien they reached the wharf, Aunt Lizzie took
her stand by the gang-plank, with her little cup
of wine ready to be held to the lips of the dying,
if so she might restore the life, flickering on the
ashy lips. The first stretcher was brought off the
boat and set down before her. As the soldiers
stood it gently on the ground, she cried, "Let me
look, let me look." In silence the oil-cloth blanket
was lifted, and there lay, with his dead hands folded
under his cheek, and the life blood frozen on his
side, a widow's offering to her country. Aunt
Lizzie recoo:niz(id him in a moment. It was one
of the boys who had left home in the first regiment
that marched out of Peoria. But this was no time
for tears, so Aunt Lizzie, stifling her emotions,
spent a busy night in attending to the wants of
these poor, wounded, half-frozen men.
AH through this dreary month of February, the
rain fell in torrents. The hospital was entirely
surrounded with water, and all the sick were brought
from the camp on flat-boats. No wonder that many
died with typhoid pneumonia. Every few days the
inmates of the hospital were agitated by orders to
march hither and thither, which when all prepara-
tions had been made, were suddenly countermand-
ed. Amid such bustle and confusion, the daily, aye,
80 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
and the nightly work went on. Aunt Lizzie writes,
" Twenty-four nights in succession I have sat up
till three o'clock in the morning, dealing out medi-
cine; I cannot think of leaving these poor fellows
if there is any chance of their living. I have for
the last month written ten letters a week. I corres-
pond with four Ladies' Aid Societies."
Our story during these years of hospital life is
necessarily a sad one. The record of sickness,
suffering and death is not cheering, but the dark
background serves to throw out into the the strong-
est light the good deeds of those who served, and
the patience and Christian resignation of those who
The last of February the regiment was ordered
to Paducah, Kentucky. Six companies left Shaw-
neetown at once, the remainder waiting for the next
boat. The hospital was not moved until the rest
had embarked, in order that all the sick might be
gathered in before they started. On Tuesday after-
noon, the fourth of March, the last battalion and
all the hospital patients left, going, however, only
as far as Smithland, Kentucky. Each battalion was
entitled to a nurse, so Major Niglas, head suj'geon
of the regiment, not wishing to separate Mrs. Sturgis
and her daughter, took them with him to Paducah,
where the larger part of the regiment was already
stationed. Aunt Lizzie was left with the assistant
"AUNT lizzie:' 81
surgeon to care for the sick at Smithland. A tavern
was seized upon for a hospital, and in a few hours
all were made as comfortable as possible under the
A few extracts from letters will tell the story of
the first few days at Paducah, better than any
description of mine:
" The doctor would not take the Post Hospital, and one bat-
talion would not justify him in opening one of his own, there-
fore, after spending three days with them, I left Smithland for
Paducah, to join the old doctor and his crew, or to be discharged,
I did not know which. The doctor, Major Niglas, gave me a
hearty welcome, and I went on duty the same night. Our
school-house is crowded to overflowing, although two stories
high. A neat little cottage in the lot adjoining our hospital
has been rented, where all the cooking is done. We ladies
have a pleasant front room. * * * *
" I do hope I shall be able to act as nurse during the cam-
paign; knowing the wants and sufferings of the poor soldiers,
I should be perfectly wretched to return home."
A little later she writes:
" Great threats are made against us, yet I never was so free
from fear in my life, for I do feel, Mother, that our cause is just.
A dispatch was sent to Cairo for two regiments. They re-
ceived the word at eleven last night; at nine this morning they
were marching up Broadway, jl do believe some of the Revo-
lutionary blood is yet in my vems; the worth of my liberty, my
countiy is everything; but it is tin.e to go on duty."
" We have eleven hospitals in this city. I am at St. Mark's,
the First Baptist Church. It is a very large edifice, will hold
five hundred patients. We have fifteen hundred changes of
clothing. My dear Mother, I have so much to stimulate me in
82 THE STORY OF A UNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
my arduous work. I seo represented in our linen closet, Mass-
achusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hamp-hire, Vermont,
Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, In-
diana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. It would
astonish you to see the Yankee socks: the heels run, and
yarn to darn them with; and such boxes of woolen blankets,
coverlets quilts, comforts, underclothing, sheets, 'and pillow-
cases." * * *
"My task is not so hard as through the winter. I am on
duty only four hours at a time — at eight in the morning and
eight at night. The stench of the wounds is almost past en-
durance, yet how small seems the sacrifice on my part when I
look at the bravery of these poor fellows. No murmurs, no
To another she writes:
" We have four thousand men station<^d here. With all the
elegance of their uniform, all the beauty of their drill, all the
patriotism of their martial music, my soul is made sad when I
think of the background of sighs and groans of the dying. In
going through the long rows of wounded men, such fortitude I
never saw; not a groan, not a murmur escapes their lips. As
for myself, my endurance astonishes me. Let some poor fellow
say: 'Cannot Aunt Lizzie stand by me through the amputa-
tion, and hold my hand? ' and let me hear it, I cannot refuse
to do anything to alleviate his sufferings. I shall look for a
letter from mother soon. Tell her I am about my Master's busi-
ness. Don't worry about me. Could you be present and see a
soldier die, hear the last expression that falls from his lips,
as he tells me: ' Say to my mother that I am my country's
sacrifice; say to ray wife, may she and my children enjoy peace
and freedom,' you would not wonder that I feel that I must
Indeed, the sending of messages to the relatives
*' AUNT lizzie:* 83
of the dying was no small part of the work of a
faithful hospital nurse. Often Aunt Lizzie left the
stifling hospital ward, after four hours of incessant
toil, and the mental strain that invariably comes
from the sight of such suffering; but when she
reached her quiet chamber in the parsonage, she
could not take the much needed rest. Far into the
night she wrote letters bearing the last sorrowful
messages of love, fresh from the lips of the dying.
The little tablets that she carried about in her
pocket were always filled with such memoranda.
To her unwearied labors in this direction, how
many owe the satisfaction of knowing that their
loved ones passed away breathing a last prayer for
dear friends far away. •
It was at Paducah that Aunt Lizzie first came in
contact with the Sanitary Commission. "When she
took charge, as head nurse, of St. Mark's Hospital,
she found the basement full of boxes from seven
different States, even from those as far west as Iowa
and Minnesota. Not only were there, as we have
already seen, large quantities of bed linen and cloth-
ing, but also boxes of bandages and barrels of lint,
as well as all kinds of portable luxuries suitable for
the sick. After her long worry during the winter,
when she could hardly procure anything fit for her
patients to eat, and when men voted as to who should
be the happy possessor of a pillow, this unwonted
84 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
abundance filled Ler witli enthusiasm. The s}- mpa-
tliy displayed for the soldiers by women all over the
land, from Maine to Minnesota, could but stimulate
and encourage her. As she herself says, she felt
the heart of the nation throbbing for the wounded.
The battle of Shiloli was fouo^ht at the beorinnins
of April. Like so many of our battles, it lasted for
two days. The Union troops were lirst repulsed,
and then, being re-enforced, repulsed the enemy with
snccess, and regained all the prisoners and stores
that they had lost. 'There was great slanghter and
suffering on both sides. The wounded were sent on
boats to Paducah, laid in long rows on the floor,
with grass packed between them, and a bit of hard-
tack Ml their pockets. Many were dying, many
were already dead as the boat, bearing a load of
wounded for St. Mark's, swung to shore at Paducah.
Ah! what a test of her womanly fortitude was it,
when Aunt Lizzie went down the plank into this
crowd of sorrow. The Mounded were packed so
closely together that she could hardly step between
them; many of them had bled to death, and as she
went fi'om one to another, the tide of their stream-
ing life-blood wet her feet. The surgeon stood in
the hatchway, and gave her orders to administer to
each a swallow of wine. With a little china cup
tied to her belt, she went among them lifting their
fainting heads and begging them for their lives to
''AUNT LlZZlEr 85
take some nourishment. Never in her life had she
performed a mission so holj. After her came the
details with pails of chicken-broth, giving those who
could take it a little at a time, till they recovered
strength to endure the anguish of being lifted and
laid on stretcliers, and carried to the hospital. It
is one of the wonders of human nature, that such
scenes as this develop tiie most sublime unselfish-
ness. As Aunt Lizzie pressed her cup to the lips of
those suffering men, lying in their blood, they looked
up into her face and faintly whispered, "don't for-
get my comrade." " My boys " she answered, in her
heart}", cheerful way, which is always as good a tonic
as a cup of wine, " my boys, I will come to every
one of you."
As the line of stretchers crept slowly to the hospi-
tal, it looked like one long funeral procession.
Aunt Lizzie stood watching them as they passed,
quite unconscious in her excitement, that her gar-
ments were dyed crimson with blood. One young
man, in his helplessness, looked up at her most
pitifully and said,
" Mother do you see me?"
" Yes, my son," she replied, " 1 see that you have
lost an arm."
"But look again," he said, and then she saw tliat
a leg had also been shot away. He reached out his
trembling hand and said faintly,
86 THE STORY OP AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
" Oil Mother if you could but take my hand and
walk along beside me."
" Certainly," she answered, " I will."
They had gone but a few steps when the blood
spurted from the wonnded arm. The bearers care-
fully set him down, while Aunt Lizzie snatched a
compress from her pocket and applied it. In a few
minutes she saw the gray shadow of exhaustion
steal over his face. Looking up at her he sighed,
" I am so faint, what shall I do?" She adminis-
tered a spoonful of wine, when he exclaimed, "What
can I do?" Her mother-heart full of tenderness,
and her eyes full of tears, she said,
"My son, my son, look to Jesus."
"O, I know, I know I must look to Him," was
After a moment's pause, as he was sinking in
death, he gazed up into heaven, and crying gladly,
"I look, I look," passed away, "looking unto Jesus."
During four weeks the toil of the devoted nurses
was incessant. Among others, Colonel St. Clair
Bass, of the Thirty -first Indiana Regiment, was
brought in with many of his regiment, fatally woun-
ded. Through the long days that elapsed before he
died, he never uttered a groan or a murmlir, but at
every cry from his soldiers lie exclaimed " oh my
noble boys, my poor boys, take care of them, they
fought so bravely." H's wife and children came
''AUNT LIZZIE." 87
Justin time to see him die, but he did not recognize
tliem. Mrs, Bass has kindly furnished an account
of this sad time, from which we quote. " One o'clock
on the morning of the fourteenth of April found us
at Paducah, anxiously searching from one hospital
to another, all churches, for St. Mark's. At last we
reached it, gave the pass-word and were admitted by
the sentinel, who sent an orderly to inform the nurse
in charge of our arrival. The orderly returned, say-
ing, 'Aunt Lizzie has had Col. Bass moved to the
linen-room, — you may come.' I can never forget
Aunt Lizzie's whispered salutation: "Dear child,
you have come, but I fear too late; still this kiss is
yours, for he said, ' Give it to Eliza if she comes too
late,'* and, hush dear children, your only hope for
recognition from husband, father or brother is in
quiet watching and waiting for the possible con-
scious moment.' A pallet of blue coats was made on
the floor for the cliild, while we watched, waited and
hoped for the word or token that never came. "With
the first grey streak of dawn Aunt Lizzie closed the
eyes, composed the features — the brave soul had
" Can we whose loved ones have received in sick-
ness and in death such tender care as Aunt Lizzie
with her loving heart and deep rel gious nature
gives to all, ever be grateful enough? Gratitude
should take a more substantial form than mere
88 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
appreciation. Aunt Lizzie lias earned the right to
beffin her future reward here on earth, and itsliould
be said to her by actions as well as words, ' rest
from labor.' "
Though a little aside from our purpose^ we can-
not refrain from finishing this sad story.
Col. Bass, although at the head of an Indiana
regiment, was a native of Kentucky, having been
born within thirty miles of Paducah. His father
arrived after he had been placed in his coffin. Aunt
Lizzie approached the aged mourner as he gazed on
the dead, and quietly said: " He left this message,
' Tell my father, if I do not live to see him, how hard
I struggled to sustain the principles of saving the
The old man, bowed with age, bent his grey head
over the lifeless countenance, and with a look of
almost unnatural composure said, " Well done, my
son; what though my property be destroyed, what
thoughmy children fall, or my own life be sacrificed,
so that my government be preserved!"
It was a night never to be forgotten by Aunt
Lizzie, when all the Indiana regiments in Paducah
formed a grand funeral procession, their weapons
glittering in the moonlight, and escorted the body
of Col. Bass to the boat that was to bear it home
for burial. Behind the coffin walked bare-headed
the aged father and one of Paducah's best judges,
"AUNT LIZZIEr 8!)
an intense Union man and a schoolmate of the
the mourner, by his side, their white locks blown
about by the breeze. " I am proud," writes Aunt
Lizzie, in the letter from which this description is
taken, "I am proud of Kentucky Unionists; they
know what they are fighting for; they would make
some of our [Northern men hide their heads in
One evening in April, Paducah was visited by a
tornado. At the close of an excessively hot day,
a storm suddenly arose, accompanied by a violent
wind. The tin roof of St. Mark's Hospital was
rolled up like a sheet of paper and carried oiF, leav-
ing the inmates exposed to the storm. Aunt Liz-
zie's courage rose to the occasion; she at once or-
dered the details to carry the sick over to that part
of the building where the wind was least heavy,
and spent the night in protecting them as far as
possible from its effects. Toward morning, the
surgeon and the steward eame over to offer aid,
which Aunt Lizzie's energy had rendered unneces-
In June, their considerate friend, head-surgeon
Niglas, perceiving that the garments of Aunt Lizzie
and Mother Sturgis were nearly worn out, suggest-
ed to the Ladies' Aid Society of Springfield the idea
of replacing tliem. The ladies responded by send-
ing an entire summer outfit, accompanied by a note
90 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
in which they say, "As we cannot labor ourselves
in the hospitals, we are very glad to help those who
give their whole time to that noble service."
In tlie heat of a southern June, Aunt Lizzie's
morning work began by accompanying the doctor
in his visit to the wards. This was immediately
followed by the oversight of the ten o'clock Innch
for the convalescents; then the changing of all the
bed linen and clothing of a hundred and ten pa-
tients; after that she seasoned the soup for dinner,
gave the medicine to both wards, sanof "Rock of
Ages," or some other hj'mn, and then left to get
her own dinner. "My usual salutation in the
morning," she writes, " is, how are you, my fellow-
soldiers? and then I sing to them 'The Red, White
and Blue,' 'Our Flag is There,' or some other pat-
There was with all the suffering, a comical side
to hospital life, that often crops out in Aunt Lizzie's
stories. While at Paducah, though amply supplied
with all manner of sanitary stores, they were otteu
sadly in want of chickens to make broth for con-
valescents. There was an immense " secesh " roost-
er, which annoyed them greatly by crowing with
great vigor at unseasonable hours, behind the hos-
pital. He was an overgrown Shanghai, of ancient
birth — in fact belonged to one of the lirst families ;
at least Aunt Lizzie thought when she tried to cook
"AUNT lizzie:' 91
him that he probably came out of the ark. One
day as she stood by the window pondering over
ways and means for feeding her patients, she hap-
pened to see this patriarch, and it occurred to her
that he was contraband of war, and that she might
lawfully confiscate liim to make a feast for her boys,
Yery early in the morning, she sent three men to
catch him, when unfortunately he ran straight into
the hall, and was caught, shrieking as only an an-
cient fowl can, directly in front of the head sur-
geon's room. In a minute or two, the door was
opened by the surgeon in dressing gown and slip-
pers, with a little black smoking cap on his head,
very angry indeed at having his morning nap dis-
turbed. He threatened to send the soldiers to the
guard house, and bade them let the rooster go, to
stop his noise. Aunt Lizzie, on the other hand, was
determined not to lose her chicken broth at this
late hour. Standing invisible behind the froiit
door she whispered, " My boys, don't you dare to
leave your victim unslain. If you are sent to the
guard house, let me know and I will defend you. "
The result was that about the time the old rebel was
ready for the pot, an orderly came in search of
Aunt Lizzie. The surgeon had caused the soldiers
to be arrested, and they had sent for her to help
them out of their difficulty. When she opened the
door, she saw that the doctor was still very much
92 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
incensed, and probably would not listen to any of
her explanations, while the three bojs stood regard-
ing her with rueful looks. She perceived at once
that nothing could be done, unless she could sur-
prise the surgeon into good nature, so putting her
finger in her mouth, and hanging her head like a
naughty child, she walked into the room with an
air of the greatest dejection. The surgeon looked
" What is the matter?" he said.
" I'm afraid, sir," was the answer.
" Afraid of what?" asked the doctor, somewhat
" I'm afraid you'll scold me, sir," said Aunt Liz-
zie, still apparently very penitent. Her pitiful look
caused him to succumb. He laughed and said,
" Boys, go to your regiment, and Aunt Lizzie, go
you to your wounded; but catch no more hens so
early in the morning."
Four days they cooked that ancient fowl. Every
day he made a good pot-full of broth, and grew
tougher and tougher. How old he was still re-
mains a mystery.
As the seat of war shifted to the South and West,
the hospitals naturally followed in the track of the
armies, in order to be near the battlefields. Ac-
cordingly, on the twenty-first of July, the hospital of
the Sixth Illinois Cavalry was ordered to Memphis,
"AUNT lizzie:' 93
Tennessee, which liad been in possession of the
Union troops for more tlian two months, and was
considered secure from attacks of the enemy. A
great number of the wounded were sent home.
Still there were some two hundred and eighty left to
be cared for. These were carefully carried on board
the steamer, "Prima Donna," and tended by their
faithful nurses. At Cairo they parted with Surgeon
I^iglas, who was forced to return for some time, to
Peoria, and who left his patients with confidence to
the care of Aunt Lizzie and Mother Sturgis. At
Columbus, they took as escort, a large gun-boat witli
twelve cannon, and in this war-like manner pro-
ceeded down the Mississippi.
About three o'clock on the afternoon of the twen-
ty-fifth of July, the " Prima Donna" reached Mem-
phis, passing to the wharf between two large gun-
boats, stationed as guard before the city.
A large, unfinished, brick building was at first
occupied as a hospital, and the sick and wounded
of the regiment, many of whom were already in
other hospitals, were brought to it. The very after-
noon that she arrived, the oflicers of the regiment
called upon Aunt Lizzie and insisted upon her taking
the sick from the camp. The boys themselves
begged to come, willing to trust to her skill till the
doctor should return. She also found, already in
the United States Hospital, thirty of the soldiers of
9i THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
her regiment, who were delighted that she had
come. One young man saw her across the ball, and
cried out almost with his last breath, " Oh, Aunt
Lizzie, you have come too late, your boy is dying."
The sick were brought from camp in ambulances,
and while Mother Sturo^is and her daujjhter saw
them comfortably bestowed in their cots. Aunt Liz-
zie, in her new role of doctor, went from one to
another and prescribed their medicine. Ten days
after, when the doctor arrived, he found her with
her fourteen new patients all doing well. Among
other diseases she had treated them for typhoid
fever, pneumonia and cholera morbus. The surgeon
complimented her as an apt student, and she went
gladly back to her place as nurse, content with
having proved that she could play the part of doc-
tor, if necessaiy.
Mempliis was full of soldiers, thirty thousand
were encamped in and around the town. Among
these regiments was the Sixth Illinois Cavalry,
•' Gov. Yates' Legion," as it was called, to which
Aunt Lizzie belonged. The boys out on picket duty
did not forget their friends in the hospital, but
every mornino- brouo:ht in bao^s of larg-e, delicious
peaches, confiscated in the suburbs. The stock of
vegetables was kept up in the same way; whatever
luxuries of the kind had been planted in the spring,
around Memphis, were not lacking to the sick and
AUNT lizzie:' 95
Aunt Lizzie tells a pitiful story of four negroes
for whom she cared in Memphis. Two men named
Alfred and Henderson, with their wives Chloe and
Mary Jane, slaves in Mississippi, ran awa}'-, hopint;^
to reach Memphis and freedom. They traveled by
night, and hid during the day in woods and swamps,
subsisting on fruit that they took from gardens.
When near Holly Springs, about forty miles from
Memphis, they were discovered, and hunted with
bloodhounds. They rushed into a swamp overgrown
with thickets, the men generously covering the re-
treat of their wives. As Alfred was escaping, a
hound caught at the calf of his leg and stripped oft'
the flesh down to the heel. Still he persisted in
trying to get away, and their pursuers were obliged
to shoot both him and Henderson, before tliey would
submit to being dragged to the Holly Springs' jail.
A part of Aunt Lizzie's regiment was stationed
near, and the Colonel hearing of the occurrence,
took a squad of men, opened the jail, and sent the
poor fugitives to the hospital at Memphis. Aunt
Lizzie dressed their wounds, and took care of them
for nearly a month. But owing to the severity of
the wounds and consequent exposure, the men died.
They were both true Christians and sang many
camp-meeting hymns which Aunt Lizzie had never
heard before. She learned from them, " We're go-
ing home to die no more," which they sang often
96 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
and with great fervor. As Alfred was dying, he
thanked his kind nurse for her care, and added,
" Missus, I've gave my life for my freedom, but I
shall soon be with Jesus." The two women had
been unhurt in tlie scuffle, and gladly gave their
services to the hospital. Mary Jane died after two
years of faithful service. Chloe still survives.
In October, the hospital was removed to the resi-
dence of Colonel Hunt, on Beale Street. The Colo-
nel and his family were not at home, having fled
from the city on the approacli of General Grant.
Everything had been left in their flight, even to two
old negroes — Aunt Judy and her husband Sam.
The house had been General Grant's head-quarters
when he entered the city. It stood in the middle of
a ten-acre garden, surrounded by noble evergreens,
fully thirty years old, and many magnolia trees.
The house contained fifteen rooms, elegantly fur-
nished. Miss Babcock of Chicago, occupied the
back parlor with Aunt Lizzie. This room, filled
with luxurious lounges and arm-chairs, was so
great a contrast to their former quarters, that Aunt
Lizzie found herself wishing that they might be
permitted to stay there all winter. One side of the
large room was fitted up with shelves to hold the
bed linen and garments of the sick. Miss Babcock
had just returned from Chicago, laden with gifts
from the church to which she belonged, to gladden
"AUNT LIZZIE r
the hearts of all bj her goodness and helpfulness.
At this time she superintended the laundry, and
filled the place of housekeeper to the entire family.
Aunt Judy did the cooking. Aunt Lizzie and
Mother Stiirgis had charge of the hospital.
Across the road was the Medical College, filled
with wounded, and scattered about the garden were
hospital tents. Exposure in passing from one to
another of these, during the chilly autumnal rains,
brought on a violent attack of inflammatory rheu-
matism, which laid Aiint Lizzie on a bed of pain
for four Ions' weeks. The sufferinor that she endured
was violent in itself, but was rendered more unbear-
able by her hearing the cries of those whom she
could no longer assist. One poor boy, shot through
the foot, lay at the end of the long hall, and often
cried out in some paroxysm of pain: "Oh God!
oh God ! " Up stairs an old wounded captain
moaned: " Oh Lord! oh Lord! " and as she heard
them. Aunt Lizzie comprehended both herself, and
them, and all the wounded, in one petition, and
prayed: " Oh God, oh Lord have mercy!"
In November the Sixth Illinois Cavalry was or-
dered South, but Surgeon Niglas did not consider
it advisable that the nurses should follow their
march into the enemy's country. He therefore left
them in Memphis, having secured places for them
98 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
at tlie Ovington Hospital. Aunt Lizzie and Moth-
er Stnrgis thus ceased to be the nurses of a regi-
ment, and entered upon a broader work in the
general hospitals of Memphis.
AUNT LIZZIE IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS
The Ovington Hospital liad formerly been the
finest hotel in Memphis, and was under the care of
six sisters of the Holy Cross, and six Protestant
nurses. Aunt Lizzie had charge of Ward A, in
which lay over a hundred sick and wounded men.
Here she remained until the early part of January,
1863. The weather during November and Decem-
ber was very severe. Snow storms were frequent
and the cold unusual. The hospital, having been
built for a hotel, had wide iron stair-cases. The
exposure and chill incident to passing over these
stairs and through the vast unheated halls was such
that many of the nurses could not endure it, and
were forced to return home. Strange as it may
seem, though just recovering from her attack of
rheumatism, the pressure of work seemed to do
Aunt Lizzie good. Though taking the responsi-
bility of caring for a hundred patients, with an eye
to tlie work of the diet-room on the floor, she was
100 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
much more able to endure the fatigue than many
who came fresh and well from home.
When Sherman's army started from Memphis
on the first expedition against Yicksburg, Aunt Liz-
zie stood and watched those thousands of brave men
as they marched past in the sunshine of the bright
winter day. All the bands played, the flags waved,
and the weapons flashed in the sunlight; but well
she knew that many of the soldiers who started
away with such eclat would return to her for a word
of sympathy, a drop of water, wounded and dying.
And so it proved to be. Large numbers of the
younger men were soon smitten with pneumonia
and were brought back in ambulances. All night
they were received at the hospital. Soon followed
the wounded of that disastrous campaign, till the
heart and hands had all that they could do day and
One dav, just after Christmas, a note was handed
Aunt Lizzie, stating that six hundred sick had just
arrived at the Jefferson Hospital, and that her broth-
er Bertrand was atnong the number. She went down
quickly and found the street in front of the hospital
full of stretchers, standing in the snow. The sick
men lying on them were a piteous sight. Many of
them were mere skeletons, who looked after Aunt
Lizzie with gaunt and hungry eyes. They had been
recaptured from a Southern prison, where they had
7/V THE GENERAL HOSFITALS. 101
been almost starved to death, and brought up the
river to Memphis. With an aching heart Aunt
Lizzie passed about among them, failing to dis-
cover in an J of the pinched and altered faces the
blooming, youthful features of her youngest brother,
the pet of the household. At last one of them
looked wistfully at her and said, faintly, " O, Lizzie,
how much you look like mother." It was Bertrand ;
but oh, how changed! If he had not known her
she never would have recognized him; pale, emaci-
ated, looking almost like an old man. In spite of
her joy at finding him, it was a tearful meeting.
She went at once to the Medical Director and had
him transferred to her own hospital. The sight of
his sister infused new strength into his weary limbs,
and he insisted upon walking up to Ovingtou Block
with her. She took him into her own room, that
she might devote all her spare time to him, for he
was far more ill than he was at first willing to con-
fess. Mother Sturo:is took the greatest interest in
him, and together they did all in their power to
help him back to life and strength. But their lov-
ing care availed little. The foundations of liis vigor
had been too systematically sapped by exposure and
starvation. The devoted women never were able to re-
store him to a point where he did not feel " all
tired out," and in March they resolved to try the
effects of a change of air. Aunt Lizzie sent him
102 THE STOBY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
in care of friends to St. Louis, where liis brother'
Mr. Ward Atherton, met him and took him home to
Hoyleton, Illinois .
During this autumn and winter Aunt Lizzie
and Mother Sturgis were sent down by rail two or
three times, to help bring home those wounded in
the frequent skirmishes and fights to the South and
East of Memphis. They found houses, the win-
dows of which were all broken by the cannonading,
full of the wounded, and also many wounded men
still on the battle-field. Their long experience had
made them skillful in dressing wounds, and they
occupied themselves for hours in helping the sur-
geons and administering comfort and religious con-
solation to the dying. When the long train was
filled with sufferers, they fed and tended them till
they arrived at the hospital.
Li January, there being no longer room for the
wounded that poured into Memphis, Aunt Lizzie
and Mrs. Sturgis were ordered to Adams Block
Hospital, to fit it up with twelve hundred cots.
The building, which covered an entire square, was
five stories high, and had been built for a hotel.
Aunt Lizzie was installed head nurse, Mnth Mother
Sturgis as ever her most eflScient and energetic
helper. A large corps of excellent nurses assisted
them. As soon as the hospital was ready, it was
immediately filled with wounded brought from
7iY THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 103
Corinth, Holly Springs and otlier places, who had
hitherto been lodged in stores and private houses.
Near the hospital a bakery was built, to supply it
with bread. Six bakers were found among the
troops, and sent to Aunt Lizzie that she might
make her choice. She shrewdly looked them all
over, laid her hand on the shoulder of a short, little
Englishman, and said, "This is the man I want."
Not knowing for what purpose he had been de-
tailed, he did not understand the proceeding, and
as he looked inquiringly at the officer in charge, his
grey eyes stood out with fear. Aunt Lizzie, how-
ever, soon put him at his ease, and set him at pre-
paring home-made bread for her patients. He
proved to be a skillful workman.
Occasionally it required considerable tact to man-
age homesick boys, and keep them from dying from
sheer want of ambition to live. One day a young
man of the Second Iowa Cavalry was brought into
ward, with simply a flesh wound in his foot. He
was laid on a cot between two men, one of whom
had lost his arm, and the other a leg. These poor,
maimed soldiers were patient and contented, but
the young fellow between them was almost at the
point of death with homesickness and despondency.
He continually assured Aunt Lizzie that he knew
he should die, and by no words of persuasion could
she induce him to eat.
104 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
One morning the physician in his rounds told the
good nurse, who had become somewhat anxious
about her patient, tliat there was no danger what-
ever from the wound, but that he was really failing
from want of nourishment. On entering the ward
Aunt Lizzie urged him to partake of some food,
telling him that slie expected his mother every day,
and that she wanted him to be at least able to greet
her when she came. But all her persuasions were
in vain. He thought it was of no use to eat, he
said, when he was so near heaven. He looked very
sober over the matter. Aunt Lizzie stood by his
side with a little breakfast that she had taken great
pains to render inviting, a waiter covered with a
white napkin, a cup of tea with a silver spoon, a
plate of broiled ham, poached eggs and fried pota-
toes. She put on as sober a face as his own, and
assured him that he need not talk about going to
heaven; that a hungry soul like him would not be
received. "The Lord," she went on, " will not
welcome one who goes hungry, when it is his duty
He looked up with great earnestness, and said:
"Do you really think so. Aunt Lizzie?"
" Why, certainly, certainly ^''^ was the reply. Im-
mediately he seized the plate and ate everything on
it with the greatest relish, amid shouts ot laughter
from everybody in the room. After that he ate with
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 105
appetite, as well as from a sense of duty, and when
his mother came a few days after, and found him
improving and cheerful, he told her that Aunt Liz-
zie had saved his life by her little ruse.
After many unsuccessful attempts to get away
for a few days Aunt Lizzie at last obtained leave
of absence for a month.
When refreshed by her rest, she returned to
Memphis, she was escorted from the boat by ten of
her boys, who had come down to meet her, and re-
ceived the heartiest greetings from all her patients,
many of whom had counted the days till she should
That same day as Aunt Lizzie stood at the farther
end of the ward, superintending the bestowment
of wounded brought from Yicksburg, she saw two
men bring in a youth of nineteen, entirely deliri-
ous. On seeing her he cried out at the top of his
voice, "Mother, mother, my dear, dear mother,
come to me." As Aunt Lizzie passed down the
ward to meet him, one of his comrades, with his arm
in a sling, whispered to her, "Call him Tommy,
call him Tommy, that's his name." Persuaded in
his delirious fancy that it was really his mother,
the sick youth clasped his arms round Aunt Liz-
zie's neck and cried out,
" Boys, boys, didn't I tell you that I would see
my mother before I died."
106 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Aunt Lizzie sought to quiet him. " Be com-
posed, mj son," she said, " I have many comforts
here — I will take care of you."
As she helped lay him on his cot, his first word
was, " Mother, now won't you kneel down and pray
softly as j'ou did when I went away ?" Dropping
on her knees beside his cot, as his own widowed
mother might have done, this childless mother laid
him tenderly on the bosom of his God. During
the night he grew weaker and weaker, and as Aunt
Lizzie came to sit by him he said, " Sing me Sister
Hattie's tune." "Which one, my son?" asked
Aunt Lizzie. It proved to be one with which she
was familiar, and together they sang,
" Come unto me, when shadows darkly gather,
When thy tired heart is weary and distressed
Seeking the comfort of thy heavenly Father,
Come unto me and I will give thee rest."
He carried his part in a sweet, clear, rich tone,
that sounded like a voice from another world, as it
rang through the room in the silent midnight.
The whole ward lifted up their heads and listened.
All night long Aunt Lizzie sat by him. After a
time he became blind, and at intervals cried out,
"Mother are you liere, don't let me die alone,"
when she would lay her hand on him and assure
him that she was still beside him. As the morn-
ing sunlight came streaming into the windows, he
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 107
peacefully fell asleep in death, without a sigh, still
under the delusion that his mother was near him.
The boat that arrived at Memphis at nine o'clock
that same mornino^ brono^ht his own mother from
Ohio. She hastened to the surgeon's office to read
the list of the dead, but the Major's heart was too
full of tenderness for him to allow her to do so. He
could not even announce to her the painful fact that
her son lay robed for the grave by other hands than
her own. He accordingly dispatched an orderly
for Aunt Lizzie to come. She led the poor mother,
whose fears were all confirmed by the manner of
her reception, into the hall and gently told her that
her son was safe in the arms of Jesus. She could
not rest a moment until she went across the road to
the morgue. There laj^ thirty of the dead in rows
along the sides of the room. Aunt Lizzie quietly
lifted the sheet from the marble face, and was filled
with astonishment and admiration at the calmness
and resignation of the mother. As she stood and
looked at her darling she said, " God is my support
in this trial. For two long years. Madam, in my
dreams I have seen my dear boy wounded, disfig-
ured, dying on the battle-field, but now he looks so
like himself and so peaceful that death is robbed of
half its sting," She kissed the still face, and then
turning to Aunt Lizzie drew her closely to her
heart and said, " How I love you, how I love jou."
108 THE STORY OF A UNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
That same evening she left Memphis taking with
her the dead body of her son, and a gratitude and
friendship for Aunt Lizzie that could only end with
In one of the wards lay a boy who was very
homesick. It often happened that those who were
only slightly wounded were dev^oured by this long-
ing to see their friends and their distant homes.
Cases have been known where men have died from
no other cause. As day after day passed by, and
the young soldier grew no better, the doctor began
to feel uneasy about him. It seemed wholly un-
necessary that he should die from the sheer effects
of imagination. Meeting Aunt Lizzie in the hall,
just after a discouraging visit to his patient, the
physician said to her, •' I will give you a dollar if
you can make that young fellow smile. I believe
it would save his life." She playfully answered,
"01 can do it for less than that." And so she did
in a manner quite unexpected even to herself. The
next morning, she needed water in the diet room,
and stepped into the next ward to call some one to
get it. The homesick boy lay close to the door,
looking as sad and forlorn as might well be. She
called out hurriedly to him, " My boy, speak to that
fellow with that gray shirt, to call to that boy with
the red shirt, to cry out to that fellow with the white
shirt there, to tell that boy with that cap, to speak
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 109
to that man with the hat, and tell him I want a pail
of water in two minutes." The absurdity of the
message was too much for the gravity of any one,
and in spite of his determination never to be happy
again, the sick boy broke out into a fit of laughter
that could hardly be restrained all day. Whenever
he thought of that pail of water, he laughed im-
moderately. The next morning the doctor found
him still laughing, and in blank astonishment asked
"What on earth does this mean?" The patient
went on to describe the scene to him, telling him
what a funny woman Aunt Lizzie was, and how she
would get anything done that she wanted, under all
circumstances. The doctor shared in his opinion,
went at once to find Aunt Lizzie, and insisted upon
paying the dollar. " You have full^y earned it Aunt
Lizzie," he said, " for my patient is rapidly recov-
ing:." The dollar no doubt went the wav of most
of Aunt Lizzie's dollars, and was spent in procur-
ing some little luxury, not in the hospital stores,
which some poor sick man craved.
Another of her tact cures was that of the head-
surgeon of the hospital. Years afterwards at an
army re-union in Wisconsin, he told the story in
this wise: He was very ill and one morning sent
for Aunt Lizzie to come and visit him. When she
arrived he complained to her that he could procure
nothing fit to eat, adding, " If I only had my
110 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
mother here, she would fix up something that I
could relish." Aunt Lizzie pretended to take this
speech quite to heart. " Don't you suppose," said
she, " that I can cook as well as your mother? I
will bring you up a dish as nice as anything she can
fix; but I don't want to cook for nothing, I must
have your promise that you will eat whatever I
fetch you." After some hesitation, as he really had
no appetite, he promised to try and and dispose of
whatever she might cook.
Going into the diet room, she happened to see a
salt cod-fish hanging up in the corner, and remem-
bered having heard old physicians say that it was
the best thing to restore the appetite of patients,
who had lost the tone of their stomachs. She cut
ofi" the tail, and roasted it in front of the fire, then
served it up with butter, crackers and a couple of
jokes. Either the salt, or the cheerful face that ac-
companied it, made it palatable, and to use the sur-
geon's own words: Aunt Lizzie saved his life with
a codfish tail.
The State Committees of the Sanitary Commis-
sion sent special agents to the hospitals South, in
charge of stores. The Ohio agent came one morn-
ing to Adams Block. While engaged in his tour
of inspection through the hospital, he came into a
room where the windows were all thrown open for
air. A dying man lay close by one of them, gasp-
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. Ill
ing for ?jreath. Aunt Lizzie sat bj' him, fanning
him gently and singing " Jesus, Lover of mj soul."
The ward-master saw a young officer riding up tlie
street, and suggested to the agent that he should
stand one side and witness the scene that would
shortly occur. The young soldier rode on a most
beautiful black horse, the gift of his uncle, and was
dressed in the uniform of a lieutenant. He was
the favorite nephew of a colonel, who, when he met
Aunt Lizzie, often said: "Whatever happens to
me, take care of my boy." And indeed there was
good reason for this fondness. The young soldier
had been carefully educated, and was noble both in
his appearance and his daily life. He had taken a
great fancy to Aunt Lizzie, and whenever he was
ordered off, came to bid her good-bye. Nine times
already had he come to ask her blessing, and receive
a word of Christian encouragement, or a little book
to read on the march. This very afternoon he had
begged leave of absence, saying to his uncle: "Let
me go, just an instant, to get Aunt Lizzie's God
As he rode up, she looked out of the window and
saw him coming. She knew his errand before he
spoke, so leaning out she cried, " God bless you,
my boy, once again, fight like a man,"
" Aunt Lizzie," said he, " do you see that battal-
ion over there by the ravine? Those are our men,
112 TEE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
we are ordered off at once. I could not go without
saying good-bye to you,"
"That is right my son," answered she, "God be
with you, don't be a coward. God bless you once
again." As he rode off she called after him, "Don't
be shot in the back."
" Never, Aunt Lizzie, never," he cried, turning
and touching to her his cavalry hat with its long,
sweeping, black plume. In a minute he was out of
sight, and Aunt Lizzie, with a prophetic thought of
evil, leaned her head on the sill, and wept as if part-
ing from her own son.
The next evening, at sundown, the long train of
ambulances brought in the wounded from the fight.
The dead were carried into the basement and laid
on shelves, in ice, till they could be buried. As
Aunt Lizzie was superintending the care of the
wounded, an assistant came up to her and said,
" Aunt Lizzie, your boy is down there," pointing to
the basement. " Which one?" she asked. It was
the young lieutenant whom she had blessed from the
window the day before. He was coming into town
with fifty prisoners in charge, when he was shot by
an ambuscade. The assassins who slew him had
plundered his body of everything of any value,
killed his horse, and with a pistol had blown off hia
face after he was dead. Aunt Lizzie, remembering
his uncle's charge, went down as soon as possible to
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 113
attend to his poor body. She found the form tiiat
but yesterday she had seen so instinct with life and
hope, pinned up in a blanket, and riddled by eleven
bullets. She carefully washed off the blood and
combed out the matted hair, and as she worked her
indignation grew. In this one dead soldier she
saw, as it were, all the victims of a mad ambition
robbed, disfigured, dead.
It was about this time that Aunt Lizzie received
from the Soldiers' Aid Societies of Brim field and
Peoria large quantities of jam and preserved fruits,
and, greatest luxury of all, a barrel of fresh butter.
The very next day the remnants of an Ohio regi-
ment came up the river, very much worn, and were
sent ashore for a few hours. They were waiting fur-
ther orders in the convalescent ward of the hospital
at Adams Block, when Aunt Lizzie heard of their
arrival. Knowing that they must be very hungrj'',
she ordered a quantity of fresh bread from the hos-
pital bakery. Her barrel of butter was wheeled
into the room, and standing by the door, she handed
to each of those six hundred men a good thick slice
of bread and butter covered with jam, as they filed
out to take the boat again. Many were the jokes
and the compliments paid to her and the ladies at
home. " Never tasted anything so good in my
life," said one. " It's just like what my mother
used to give me when I was a good boy," laughed
114 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
another. " Hurrah for Aunt Lizzie!" cried they
all as they passed out of the door. They went
cheerfully on their way, and in a few minutes the
empty jam-pots and the half-empty barrel were all
that showed that they had been in Memphis at all.
The month of August was full of great trials and
sorrow to Aunt Lizzie. On the third day of that
month her brother Bertrand died at Cavendish.
He had returned to the old home with his mother,
but the effort had been too great for his failing
strength, and in ten days he quietly passed away.
In this month, also. Colonel David Irons died at
To these depressing events were added other
things that made this month of August one of the
severest during Aunt Lizzie's army service. The
heat was intense; the hospital had been refilled with
sick from Vicksburg, and many of the nurses gave
out utterly under the renewed burden, so Mother
and Aunt Lizzie had, at times, to do double duty.
How determined and faithful they were may be
shown by a little incident mentioned in a letter:
Aunt Lizzie scalded her right hand so badly by
spilling boiling chocolate over it that the skin was
destroyed, and she could not use it for three weeks.
Still, during that time, she was never absent from
her post, and assisted Mother Sturgis to fill the places
of four of the other nurses who were absent.
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 115
In November, Mrs. Stiirgis was called home to
Peoria by the severe illness of her daughter Annie,
who soon after died. Thus was Aunt Lizzie depri ved
for mouths of her most faithful co-worker, and her
most intimate friend.
The loyal ladies of Memphis formed themselves
into a '' Union League," on the eighteenth of No-
vember, with the the wife of Major Robb at their
head. In addition to all their other labors for the
soldiers, these ladies began to work for a Sanitary fair.
Some time before they had started an impromptu
flower-mission. The dreary wards of the hospitals
were supplied with fresh flowers, bushels of which
were sent every morning. Every available corner
of table or shelf was adorned by the most lovely
bouquets. Tin cans, that had held preserved fruits,
or condensed milk, took the place of vases, and
were easily made to pass for such, being hidden by
a drapery of luxuriant vines. Many a loyal woman,
who had nothing else to give, brought the choicest
of her flowers, the sweetest roses, the purest mag-
nolias, the most fragrant myrtle, that by their silent
beauty they might help men to sufl'er and to die.
In February 1864, fifteen thousand cavalry left
Memphis on a raid through Mississippi, the Sixth
Illinois, Aunt Lizzie's own regiment, taking the
lead. The soldiers flocked to the hospital by hun-
dreds to bid her good-bye, leaving their photographs
116 THE STOBY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
with her for fear they might never return, and
begging her to stay in Memphis at least four
months longer, that they might have the satisfac-
tion of feeling that if wounded they could be sent
back to her for care. Aunt Lizzie, standing like a
mother in the midst of the crowd, assured them
that if God sustained her, she would surely remain
until their return. The staff officers of the reo-i-
ment, anxious to give her a substantial token of
affectionate regard, presented her, before they left,
with a gold watch and chain, and an album contain-
ing all their photographs. The general gave her,
at the same time, a handsome black dress, which was
certainly the most welcome gift that she could re-
ceive. In spite of the kindness of the ladies at home.
Aunt Lizzie often found it very difficult to procure
all necessary articles of clothing, and to pay for
washing out of a salary of twelve dollars a month,
and even that very irregularly paid.
Yery many of these familiar faces she never saw
again. Before the month closed, a long train of
ambulances brought a hundred and fifty wounded
to Adams Block, some of them the very boys who
had bidden her good-bye but a few days before.
They brought the sad news that five of their officers
had been killed in a desperate fight on the Talla-
hatchee, all dying wathin twenty-five minutes of
each other. How great a blessing Aunt Lizzie was
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 117
to those who were happy enough to reach Memphis
alive, is best expressed by the words of one of them,
a boy of nineteen, who died the next day, dinging
to her hand as he went down into the dark valley:
" Dear Aunt Lizzie," he said again and again,
"what a comfort to have you sit beside me, to feel
tliat I shall not die alone." After lying quite still
for some minutes, he said, looking up very earnestly
into her face, "Aunt Lizzie, may you not want
some kind friend to comfort you when you die."
She answered, "My son, God will provide." His
eyes filling with tears, he said, " How much that
sounds like my own dear mother's voice, tell my
mother all," and died.
In the early spring, troops having been sent from
Yicksburg to join the Red River Expedition, West
Tennessee and Kentucky were left exposed to the
attacks of the rebels. General Forrest, of the Con-
federate army, started with five thousand men to
take Paducah, but was repulsed. He next attacked
Fort Pillow, and took it by surprise. Then followed
the cruel slaughter of helpless prisoners that has
made the name of Forrest infamous. Some of the
few who survived were brought to Memphis, and
enlisted Aunt Lizzie's greatest sympathy by their
deplorable condition, riddled with pistol-shots, and
slashed by sabres. Her special ward was filled with
wounded, and the most desperate cases were turned
118 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
over to her by the surgeons, who had learned to
depend upon her skill and faithfulness.
The thoughts that passed through her mind con-
tinually during these dark days are best expressed
by herself in a letter to her friend, Mrs. Irons. She
'* There is so much to be done, so much need of more being
done, so many sad hearts all about me to be cheered, so many
broken spirits to be lifted tenderly and bound up lovingly, such
great dark errors, such hungry, wolfish sorrows all about me,
to be struggled with and conquered for myself, as well as my
brother soldiers, that I feel I cannot make a play-day of one
single day in which God gives me the glorious privilege of
living. * * * * I deem my mission one of the holiest ever
entrusted to mortals. I am content to work in a humble sphere,
not forgetting that though I may not be the swift flovring river,
I may be a drop or portion of it, which is pouring its blessings
out upon suffering humanity. * * * * What rich, tender,
happy, yet sad experiences I have had during my almost three
years of service. I see grim-visaged war sit with frowning
brow, holding his dripping sword, which has caused rivers of
blood to flow'on the battle-field, and deeper rivers of anguish
from broken hearts and desolate firesides; what Spartan-like
giving up of household idols, what noble acts of devotion and
sacrifice of self! My sister, we are making up the leaves of a
glorious history, and I thank God, woman is writing her golden
sentences upon its pages."
In August the Union soldiers in Memphis re-
ceived several months' pay, a very large amount of
money. General Forrest, hearing of this, deter-
mined to confiscate at least a part of it for his own
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 119
needy army. The Irving Block Prison was full of
rebel prisoners, who doubtless knew of his coming
and were ready to join his band the moment he
conld reach them. He swept down upon Memphis,
unexpectedly to its defenders, and succeeded in
penetrating into the city. He pillaged the Gay-
osa Hospital, and started to liberate the prisoners.
Aunt Lizzie, hearing the noise, leaned out of a third
story window in Adams Block, and saw the Union
soldiers, who were drawn up on the roof of the
prison, shoot the rebels in the street, who were striv-
ing to force their way into the well-guarded doors
of the building. A crowd of people, " cowards,"
Aunt Lizzie styles them, pressed down the street
toward the river. Looking up, one after another
recognized her, and called to her to escape, or the
rebels would shoot her head off if she stood looking
out at the fight. " Let them sboot," she cried, in
a state of great excitement, " I will look."
A call for Aunt Lizzie, however, made her turn
her attention to the hospital. There were eleven
hundred sick and wounded in Adams Block, and
it was thought best to send the women, and the
patients able to be moved, across the river for safety.
The idea occurred at once to one of the soldiers, that
they had better put their watches and money, into
the hands of the ladies. Aunt Lizzie and Mother
Sturo;is stood at either end of the halls and received
120 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
the valuables that were passed to them. The money
was rolled up in packages, with full directions on
each, — name, regiment, state and post office; so that
if the owners were killed or captured, their property
could be sent to their Iriends.
Aunt Lizzie received as her share fifty- seven
watches, which she fastened to a belt and strapped
around her waist. The money, amounting to
several thousand dollars, she put into a large inside
pocket. It was understood that she and the other
nurses were to be sent immediately across the river,
to a place of safety. But just as she was descending
the stairs, an orderly rushed up with news that the
colonel of her own regiment lay, badly wounded in
a skirmish with the raiders, about a mile from the
In a moment all the fifty-seven ticking watches,
the money and her own safety, were forgotten, and
she resolved to go and care for him. At the door
of the hospital, she found an Irishman standing by
a lumbering old carryall. He had evidently been
sent to take her and Mrs. Sturgis to the boat, but
she determined to use him for her own purposes.
" Pat, "she said, in as broad a brogue as she could
command, " there's a lad down there badly wounded,
and I'm after going to see liim, how much will you
take me for?"
Pat quite delighted to find, as he thought, one of
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 121
his own countrywomen in the hospital, pulled off
his hat, gallantly replied tliat " sorra a cent would
he be after taking," and helped her into the carry-
all in fine style.
Hardly had they started, when she realized her
thoughtlessness in thus entrusting herself and all her
boys' property to the care of an entire stranger. In
great fear lest he should hear the ticking of the
watches, she began to talk to him. He, nothing
loath, kept up the conversation. "And how long
may you have been in this country?" he asked.
" About three years, sir," she answered.
"And do you live near here?" was the next ques-
" No, indeed," she replied, " I came down from
the North, to take care of the boys in the army."
Then she asked him if he had a family, for he
seemed so delighted with her that she feared he
might undertake to make love to her.
" Arrah, yes," he said, he had a wife and three
children, " and would she come and see them?"
"Some other day," she answered, "now I must
go and attend to the poor wounded lad."
Fortunately for Aunt Lizzie, the rebels were so
fully occupied in Memphis that she encountered no
stragglers of their army. She found the Colonel
severely wounded and rapidly sinking from loss of
blood. When she began staunching the wound
122 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
with lint, he looked up in great joy and surprise,
" O, Aunt Lizzie," said he, " how did you get to
"Never mind now," answered she, "only drink
this brandy, so that we can carry you to headquar-
ters." She found a couple of men, who placed him
on a litter, and she walked back to town-by his side,
holding his hand to help him bear the great pain
of being moved. When in the dusk of evening they
passed slowly through the streets of Memphis, they
found the place comparatively quiet, Forrest had
been driven out, and order restored. In a short
time all the watches were ticking under the pillows
of their owners, who had never left the hospital,
and the money was safely deposited where it be-
The next evening, Aunt Lizzie accompanied the
Colonel to the boat, gave into the hands of his at-
tendant a bottle of wine, and one of beef tea that
she had prepared for him, and bade him farewell.
She never saw him again. He had received his
death-wound, and but for her rash courage and
humanity probably would have expired on the field
before help could reach him. As it was, he lingered
a short time in his home at Jacksonville, Illinois,
and died surrounded by his family.
A few days after this. Aunt Lizzie's Irish friend
came to the hospital in search of her. He wished
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 123
to take her to make a visit at his house. He in-
quired of the head surgeon for the Irish woman
who lived there.
" Mj good fellow," replied the surgeon, " there
is no such person here."
" Ah, but there is; jou can't cheat me; didn't I
drive her myself from the door of this very house? "
Mother Sturgis overheard tlie altercation, and
came running into the ward where Aunt Lizzie was
busy. "Come quickly," she cried, "here is your
Pat looking after you, and he will be very angry if
he finds that you are not Bridget, after all." They
hid her away in a linen closet, since the man insist-
ed upon hunting through the wards for the woman
who had talked so pleasantly to him. Finally, the
clerk and the surgeon fairly drove him off, and he
probably has never found out who Bridget was, to
In September Aunt Lizzie left Memphis on her
long promised visit to Peoria and Vermont. The
officers of her regiment procured her a veteran's
furlough of sixty days, and a railroad pass to Peo-
ria. "Wearied with her long service, she at first
thought that after her visit was ended she would
apply for permission to serve in a more ISTorthern
hospital, where her duties would be less arduous.
She was, however, entreated by the officers of the
Sanitary Commission in Memphis, and by the hos-
124: THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
pital surgeons, to return. Colonel Robb, the Illi-
nois Sanitary Agent, wrote:
^^ Dear Aunt Lizzie: — Hearing to-day that you were on the
point of returning to your home in Peoria, I could not refrain
from expressing the deep regret we all feel at your leaving us,
after the long, pleasant intercourse we have enjoyed here. Yet
the loss your friends will meet with will be but slight compared
with that of the suffering men you leave behind you at Adams
Block Hospital. Sadly indeed will they miss the cool hand on
their burning brows, the kind and sympathizing word, when
struggling with death or slowly returning to health. Still, we
should not complain, for after the long and efficient services
you have devoted to ihese brave men and your country, at the
sacrifice of your comfort and home, I can but say, God bless
you, and God speed you.
" Very truly and sincerely your friend,
"T. P. RoBB, Col. and Agent."
The Special Relief Agent of the U. S. Sanitary
Commission, the Military Agents of Indiana and
Iowa, the Superintendent of the United States Gen-
eral Hospital at Memphis, the chaplain and surgeon
of her own hospital, all with one impulse wrote
declaring that her departure will be a serious loss
to Adams Block Hospital, where, for a year and
eight months, she had been like a Christian mother
to multitudes of our brave soldiers.
The Ohio Military Agent, determined if possible
to keep her in Memphis, wrote as follows to the
President of the Western Sanitary Commission:
Jas. E. Yeatman, Esq.,
Sib: From an acquaintance of something over a year with
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 125
Mrs. Aiken, acting Matron of the Adams Hospital in Memphis,
I am decidedly of the opinion that the interests of the hospi!al
service require that she be retained in her present poiition at
True, her frankness of manner and " winning' ways" would
soon gain her friends wherever she might go. It however takes
time to acquire the confid mce she has here of all who have to
do with the sick in hospitals
She is conspicuous among the few who have any aptness for
such service, adapting herself alike to all.
I trust and hope there will be no move looking to her trans-
fer to another place.
F. W. Bingham.
Under sucli a pressure of appreciation and regard,
what could Aunt Lizzie do but promise to return
and remain with her friends till the close of the war?
Her stay at Peoria was by no means one of un-
broken rest and recreation. Hers was not a nature
that could easily drop all thought of the sufferers
she had left behind. Soi'ely worn as she was, she
commenced at once to visit the towns about Peoria,
gather together the women, and give a recital of
hospital incidents. Slie asked for no money, but
at the close of her affecting addresses an impromptu
collection for the hospital was called for by the
audience. In this way she raised seven hundred
dollars before she left the West.
The ladies of the Peoria Loyal League sent her
on to Yermont to visit her mother. Like most of
those who give their all for the privilege of minis-
126 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
tering to the suffering of our race, she was then,
as ever, cared for. Even the pleasures of life are
not wanting as part of the reward of faithful, self-
sacrificing service. Aunt Lizzie has all her life
found that practically the sentiment is true,
" There was a man, though some did think him mad,
The more he gave away, the more he had."
And so Aunt Lizzie, who had often spent her last
cent for the comfort of a wounded soldier, still had
the wish of her heart, and was permitted to go
home once more and see her beloved mother, from
whom she had been separated for eleven long years.
Tiiree weeks of entire rest were spent in Caven-
dish. After her experience in the heat, noise and
confusion of two summers at Memphis, nothing
could have been more grateful than the quiet cool-
ness of the little New England town. Here, too,
she was far from the questions that disturbed other
parts of the country. As she spoke at Cavendish,
in behalf of her soldiers, it seemed to her that even
the leaves of the trees, as they whispered in the
breeze, spoke messages of loyalty and cheer.
She made a number of "sanitary addresses" in
the neighboring towns and was received everywhere
with appreciative enthusiasm.
At the close of her visit to Yermout, the loyal
ladies of New Hampshire sent for her to give them
reports of the hospital work in the Southwest.
7A^ THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 127
She went with alacrity, since the call gave her not
only the opportunity of making collections for her
patients, but also of seeing her husband. He was at
that time in the care of some relatives in New Hamp-
shire, and Aunt Lizzie hoped that she might iind
him in improved health. But she was doomed to
the bitterest disappointment. When she arrived at
the house where he stayed, he did not recognize her,
but received her as a stranger. No explanations
seemed to brino- her to his clouded remembrance.
She was obliged to content lierself with watching
him through the window. The sight of his utter
forgetfulness of her, filled her heart with such grief
that she never again has submitted herself to the
same trial. For many years she has faithfully per-
formed her duty to him, so far as lies in her power.
She has reversed the usual order of things and pro-
vided out of her salary for his maintainance. But
this she could not do if she assumed the personal
care of a helpless invalid, more unreasonable than
The latter part of October, Aunt Lizzie returned
to Memphis by way of Peoria, refreshed by the jour-
ney and strengthened for her work. She had raised
in all about one thousand dollars for hospital stores.
During her second visit in Peoria, she consulted
with the Ladies of the Loyal League, and made
arrangements for a grand Thanksgiving dinner,
128 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
which she wished to give her patients; especially
those in the convalescent wards. She also bought
a boat-load of potatoes, butter and eggs, to take back
This Thanksgiving dinner proved a great success.
Aunt Lizzie turned cook for the occasion, set to work
in the diet room, and made three hundred pies.
She had all the materials, large stone crocks of
mince-meet, and a barrel of butter; forty puddings
and two hundred and fifty chickens, besides turkeys
in abundance, were also provided.
In December, Aunt Lizzie writes; "Mother
Sturgis and myself never worked harder in our lives.
We have been able to draw no new clothing for our
patients this fall, and we have had some very cold
weather. Every leisure moment we spend in darn-
ing and patching old socks and mending old flannel
In January, 1865, Aunt Lizzie's health gave way
imder the pressure of her severe labors, and she was
transferred from Adams Block, to the Washington,
Hospital. Her talent for arrangement, and her
well-known executive ability, led to this change.
Mrs. Sturgis was left at Adams Block till April.
In her new position Aunt Lizzie was assigned
lighter duties, especially the care of the linen room.
When she arrived, she found the patients still
drinking their coffee from tin cups, and eating
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 129
their meals from the same metal. She quickly
revolutionized the domestic arrangements of the
hospital and introduced, as she had at Adams
Block, white china. It is wonderful how great a
difference so slight a change made in the quiet and
comfort of the wards. The appetite of the patients
revived when their food was served in a home-like
Her life at the "Washington Hospital comes out
in a letter written during the spring:
" Dear Mrs. Blanchard:
" Amid the greatest confusion, and in the greatest liurry, I
seat myself to acknowledge the receipt of your box, which came
to hand last week. Nothing could have been more timely, for
we had just received a boat-load of sick from Eastport. Poor
fellows, they hud had nothing but boiled corn during several
days to subsist on. Just imagine how they enjoyed the hot
buttered toast. We made three hundred slices the first meal.
Nothing could have proved so great a luxury as the butter.
The socks were immediately put to good use, and the shii-ts,
Mother Hathaway's shirts, I took into the ward, and told the
boys I was going to move that we vote who was most in need
of the shirts; they all cried out, 'Uncle Billy.' I went up to
him. and found him an old man of sixty years. * * * *
" Three hundred shirts, all wanting mending, have just come
in from the laundry, so I will write no more this time."
Here, as everywhere, she was idolized by the sol-
diers. The sister of one who had gone home to
die, in describing his last days, writes these touch-
]30 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
"Aunt Lizzie, I don't think that there was one person who
came in to see bim as long as he was able to talk, but he spoke
of you to them, always declaring that he believed you to be the
best woman living. Oh how often have I heard that dear voice
that is now hushed in death, speaking in such high terms of
your noble qualities. One night he was delirious, and every
time he wanted anything he called on you to bring it to him.
It seemed that he thought you were waiting on him and right
by his side, for every little while he called out, ' Oh, Aunt Liz-
zie, 1 want a drink, please bring me a drink.' Dear Aunt
Lizzie, we shall ever gratefully remember you for your kind-
This is but a sample of extracts that mi^ht be
made from scores of letters written bj relatives of
those to whom Aunt Lizzie ministered with the
Her "soldier boys" fully appreciated her care,
and strove in many ways to express their regard.
One day they noticed tliat she was almost bare-
footed. Her shoes were all worn out, and no
'money was in her purs3 to buy more. Several of
the soldiers contributed from their scanty store
and surprised her with an elegant pair of new
The following characteristic sentences deserve
copying. They were accompanied by a present
of various articles calculated to please a lady — a
pearl portfolio, gold pen, scrap-book and ivory
"We, the undersigned, agree to pay the amount opposite
our names, for the purpose of getting Aunt Lizzie a present,
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 131
in order to show our gratitude, love, respect, and friendship
for her, for her sympathy, kindness, respect, love, anxit ty,
good attention and mo herly care toward us, and other sick,
wounded and well soldiers. We believe her to be a good, pat-
riotic, and Union lady, a friend of the soldiers and our country.
She therefore merits a tribute of respect from us, to show our
gratitude toward her for her kindness."
In April, word was received in Memphis, that the
steamer "Sultana" was on her way up the river,
with nineteen hundred discharged Union prisoners
and four hundred other passengers on board. When
it was understood that she would stop for a few
hours at Memphis, the loyal citizens of the place
prepared a sumptuous supper for the poor soldiers,
who had been half starved during the last fifteen
months. The artillery was drawn up in line on
the river bank and saluted the boat as she swung
to shore; the crowd cheered, and the afternoon
was spent in congratulations and feasting. The
war was ended, and all the soldiers in Memphis
were expecting soon to follow in the wake of the
" Sultana," up the river, home.
Just at dusk the refreshed party started, amid
renewed cheers and the booming of cannon. But
about two o'clock in the morning Aunt Lizzie was
awakened by a cry that, accustomed as she was to
the groans of the wounded, and the screams of de-
lirium, struck her with terror, a confused noise, a
cry of anguish, the most dreadful she had ever
132 THE SrORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
heard. At once she perceived that some shocking
event must be transpiring, and she sprang to wake
Mrs. Sturg's. Then, throwing on a shawl, she ran
through the rooms where the girls slept, and bade
them rise and dress as quickly as possible, for some-
thing fearful was coming. Before she reached her
own room again, the great gong sounded the signal
for every person in the bnilding to go on duty, and
news ran throus^h the halls that the '"Sultana" had
exploded, some distance up the river, and that the
stream was full of drowned and drowning men. In
company with half the inhabitants of the city. Aunt
Lizzie rushed to the bank. There an appalling sight
met their eyes. The whole river was alive with
liuman beings, scalded and drowning; hundreds
were hanging to pieces of timber, the banks were
strewn for miles with the dead, and from the whole
struggling, suffering mass went up a heart-rending
cry that froze the blood of thos3 who heard it.
Blankets were spread on the sand, and the victims
were drawn out of the water as they floated past.
Many of them were so badly scalded that the mo-
ment the air touched their bodies, the intolerable
anguish drove them back into the river, and they
were lost. But hundreds were rolled up in the
blankets, and taken to the hospitals. ■
After a few ambulance loads had been carried to
her hospital, Aunt Lizzie went to prepare pailfuls
IN THE GENERAL HOSPITALS. 133
of liniment for the burned. She had personal
cliargeof a hundred poor fellows, and tended them
through days and nights of suffering that cannot
Great as was Aunt Lizzie's devotion to the bodily
wants of her patients, such care M'as but a trifle
compared with her anxiety and love for their souls.
As an entire orchestra often plays softly an accom-
paniment to the clear notes of a melodious human
voice, each instrument executing perfectly its part,
but all subordinate to the one aim of enhancing the
beauty of the song, so every little act of kindness,
every sympathetic word, was made but the accom-
paniment to an unceasing message of peace and
forgiveness from God.
When twilight brought a lull in the labors of
the day, before the anguish and dangers of the night
began, Aunt Lizzie seized upon the qniet hour to
distribute her little hymn-books, and sing the songs
of a better life. With Mrs. Sturgis and her dauffh-
ter she led the mnsic, while the words of faith and
comfort were caugjit up b}' many a trembling voice.
Sometimes even the dying joined in the song, and
passed away with words of Christian triumph on
We have already noticed instances of the fervor
and efficacy of her prayers. Many now doing good
work for the Lord, date back their conversion to the
134: THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
hospital cot, and Aunt Lizzie's fervent supplica-
tions. She stood as a "Mother in Israel" iu the
hospital, comforting the sorrowing soul as well as
soothing the aching head. One of her co-laborers
writes: "Light and joy came to sad and weary
hearts when Aunt Lizzie's step was heard. Her
words of cheer, her delicate appreciation of her sol-
dier boy's wants, as if a mother thought what she
could best do for a dear son, the deep waking of
soul-lite, as by song and prayer she asked Jesus to
bear their sorrows, and the Comforter to heal their
broken spirits, will never be fully known, till the
stars in her crown shall be shown, when Christ's
words of commendation shall be spoken.'*
FIRST TWO YEARS IN CHICAGO.
In June, 1865, the M^ar being happily over, the
hospitals were broken up, and Aunt Lizzie left
Memphis for Peoria. The work, which had occu-
pied so fully both heart and hands during three
years and a half, was finished. With the necessity
for such work, her strength also departed, and it
was only by the greatest care on the part of Mother
Sturgis, who accompanied her, that she was able to
reach Peoria at all. In this emergency the sol-
diers, of whom a thousand were sent North on the
same boat, had some small opportunity to return
her many favors. They carried her from the boat
to the cars, and exhibited the solicitude of sons for
the welfare of a beloved mother.
Her old friend, Mrs. Irons, received her gladly at
Peoria, — alas! Aunt Lizzie had no home of her
own, — and with the tenderest love ministered to
her wants as she lay ill for weeks. Nothing, at
that period of utter exhaustion and weakness, saved
her life but her own composure and resignation to
136 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
the will of God, joined to the sisterly care of her
As she began to grow a little stronger, the ques-
tion of her future recurred. When on the journey
from Memphis, she had been drawn into conversa-
tion by a stranger, a Christian gentleman, who ques-
tioned her as to what she intended to do on her ar-
rival home. " I have no plans for the future," she
replied, " I return weary and ill to the graves of
those I love. I have no home."
" My dear madam," said he, " what hinders you
from entering the missionary work?"
Greatly surprised at his question, she answered
that she was sure he could not be acquainted with
her lack of qualifications, as a Christian woman, for
such a work.
" You are mistaken, madam," said he, " not only
have 1 often heard of you, but I have myself watch-
ed your hospital labors all through the war. Your
army service has been the grandest school to pre-
pare 3'ou for such Christian work."
When during her convalescence she pondered on
what she could do in the years that were yet before
her, this question returned again and again to her
mind, " What hinders you from entering into some
kind of missionary labor?" She therefore decided
quietly to wait and see what God would give her
to do, persuaded that if he had work for her, the
the way would surely be pointed out.
FIRST TWO YEARS IN CHICAGO. 137
In the early autumn sLe went to Cliicago to visit
a friend, who had heard of her ill health, and in-
vited her to come and make a long visit. The first
breath of the bracing lake air seemed to invigorate
the frame enervated bv the trying climate of the
Six pleasant weeks were spent in rest and recrea-
tion ; then her friend was suddenly called away from
the city. She urged Aunt Lizzie to make her house
her home for the winter, and left her in charge dur-
ing her absence. But Aunt Lizzie conld not be
content to remain. She felt that the time had come
when she must begin to care for herself. She tried
in every way to procure employment of some kind,
but failed in all her efforts. At last one day, weary
and discouraged, she returned to her room, and
throwing herself on her knees, with many bitter
tears, laid the case before her heavenly Father.
She knew from long experience that here was her
only refuge, and casting herself upon Almighty
Love, she resolved to trust God for the future.
With renewed strength she started out again on her
search, when, distinctly, as if it had been suggested
by some voice outside herself, came the thought that
she had better apply to the editor of the " Stan-
dard." Mr. Church received her with great kind-
ness. She told him that after lookino' lons^ for some
occupation, she had almost decided to take the only
138 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
work which oifcred itself, that of folding papers in
a printing office.
"My dear Madam," he said, "you are qualified
for some better position than that. Your many
years of experience in Christian work should not
be lost in tliis city, where such labors are so much
needed. Let me give you a letter of introduction
to Mrs. Everts, the wife of the pastor of the First
Baptist Church. She is a lady who will appreciate
your desire to serve the Master, and also will know
of any opening that there may be in that direction."
With a hopeful heart, Aunt Lizzie went imme-
diately to call on Mrs. Everts, and met with a re-
ception which relieved all her anxieties. Mrs.
Everts listened to the story with the graceful cour-
tesy which always distinguished her, and when it
was finished, took both Aunt Lizzie's hands in hers,
kissed her, saying with tears in her eyes, "God has
surely sent you to me; I have work for you to do.
Stay with me to lunch, and we will go this afternoon
to visit the ' Erring Woman's Refuge.' I have long
wanted a missionary to labor in connection with
that institution, and you are the very one we need."
Shortly a!ter, a meeting of ladies was called who
oiFered Aunt Lizzie a home at the Refuge, and fifty
dollars for three months' work, a remuneration
manifestly so inadequate, that it was afterwards
raised to twenty-five dollars a month, the salary to
FIRST TWO YEARS JN CHICAGO. 139
be paid bj the Youni? Men's Christian Association,
in individual subscriptions. She, on her part, was
to act as general city missionary, but was expected
to do special work for the " Refuge." This place
she continued to fill for two years, at the end of
which time, the funds of the Board running low, it
was deemed necessary to dispense with her services.
Extracts from letters and her diary will best tell
the story of that two years' work:
"By coming to Chicago. I am introduced into anew chap-
ter, in which every day teaches me most painful lessons. To-
day has been so gloomy, dark and cloudy ! How drearily these
autumn winds sweep over the prairies and through the long
streets of this great city. The wi'hered leaves fly before them
and whisper of decay and death. I draw my old beaver cloak
more closely about me, and tie en my hood tightly, hastening
home to a warm fireside ; but how is it with thousands in this
city, who have no comfoi-table homes inviting their return, noth-
ing but scanty garments to shield them from the cold blast?
To-day 1 saw some little, half-clad, barefooted children gather-
ing a few chips and pieces of boards, which some carpenters
had left behind. Do they not feel the cold as much as I?
Then I saw a poor, old woman bowed with age, canying her
basket of waste sticks, she had gathered from the streets, to her
cheerless garret. Feels she not in her old frame this piercing
cold ? I see so many painful sights. Oue day I met a crippled
soldier, his ragged blue uniform, witness of his noble daring,
was aU the clothes he had. His good right aim had been given
for his country. Does the glory of having fought in defense of
his country make him warm? Does it chase away the look of
sorrow from the face of his discouraged wife ?"
" Oct. 2'M, 1865. — My heavenly Father, Thou alone art able to
140 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
help virtue triumpli over vice ; aid me, oh give me access to the
hearts of those I meet. Oh Thou, who knowest my heart, give
me the key to reach conscience", to rouse that blessed monitor
within the human breast, and draw the erring from the paths
of sin. Grant me the spirit of Jesus."
A work commenced in such consecration to God,
and sympathy for the poor and erring, conld not
fail to be successfiih Wherever Aunt Lizzie went
she made friends. Even tlie most degraded received
her kindly, and wept, though too often with trans-
ient repentance, while she prayed for them and en-
treated them to leave their evil ways. Her co-
laborers, during those two years at the " Refuge,"
speak of her arrival among them as a priceless bless-
ing. One of them writes: " For two years she went
out and came in, all the time sustaining the most
lovely Christian character, which was of untold worth
among the inmates of our ' Home.' To say that
we loved her is tame and feeble. The cheer which
she always brought with her was so welcome to us
who had so many discouragements."
Many interesting incidents of Aunt Lizzie's work
as a missionary for the "Refuge" might be told.
No one, not similarly employed, can dream of the
o-reat hinderances acjainst which she strove in her
endeavors to save souls. To her untiring zeal and
exhaustless charity, many owe their return to a life
of virtue. It is but due to them that their sad sto-
ries shall be forever buried. God forbid that even
FIRST Tli'O YEARS IN CHICAGO. 141
the gliost of the past should arise on these pages to
The story of poor Minnie may, however, be tokl,
for she is beyond all fear of crnel remembrances.
She was a lovely orphan child of fifteen, witli long
yellow curls and dark blue eyes, sent alone to the
city by an aunt, thoughtless or ignorant of its dan-
gers. She fell into wicked hands, and had not
Christian principle enough to fly from the snares
laid for her. Aunt Lizzie met her often on the
street, or in the cars, and knowing her sin, tried in
every way to persuade her to come to the " Refuge."
At last, after long weeks of patient labor. Aunt Liz-
zie had the satisfaction of bringing the erring child
home with her.
Though hard to win, Minnie gave herself up en-
tirely to the friend who had sought her out. Once
safe within the walls of the Eefuge, she seemed
suddenly to realize the horror of the abyss from
which she had been plucked, and throwing herself
into Aunt Lizzie's arms she cried, " Oh save me,
save me, I cling to you." " Poor, helpless child, "
returned Aunt Lizzie, folding her closely to her
heart, " poor, helpless child, indeed I will keep
you. " With tender solicitude she represented the
pitying Savior, standing even then ready to receive
every penitent soul. " You may cling to him for
safety, " she said, " he will forgive you and keep
142 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
you as no earthly friend can. " The gospel thus
lovintjjly preached was accepted with joy. Every
day gave evidences of repentance and faith, and
Aunt Lizzie rejoiced greatly over the lamb which
she had found.
But it soon became apparent that consumption
had fastened itself upon the young girl; the blue eyes
grew large and bright, and a rosy spot glowed on
the fair cheek. As she became every day weaker,
her beauty seemed ever to increase. At first she ad-
ded much to the happiness of the hedged-in house-
hold by her musical talent, but soon her feeble fin-
gers forsook the keys. Morning and evening Aunt
Lizzie spent a few minutes of devotion with her,
and was delighted and surprised at the depth of her
repentance and faith. After awhile she was too
weak to leave her bed, and when she had been in
Aunt Lizzie's care about ten months, she died.
Her end was peace. All that last morning she laid
with her head on a pillow on Aunt Lizzie's lap.
As that kind friend laid her hand on the flaxen
tresses which rippled over the pillow, Minnie
opened her eyes and, looking up lovingly iato her
face, said softlj', " I have had no mother, but you
have been more than a mother to me." After a while
she whispered in reply to Aunt Lizzie's anxious
question, " I know I love the Savior; I know He has
forgiven me. I know this because my soul trusts
FIRST TWO YEARS IN CHICAGO. 143
in Him." Then she quietly passed away to that
land where there is no sorrow and no sin.
Many tears were shed at the funeral, as Aunt Liz-
zie, standing beside the beautiful clay, repeated stan-
zas from Hood's Bridge of Sighs.
•• Take her up tenderly,
Litt her -with care; —
Fashioned so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!
« 41 « « « * *
•'Owning her weakness,
Her evil behavior,
And leaving, with meekness,
Her sins to her Savior! "
"My Father," writes Aunt Lizzie, in her diary, " oh help me
not to weary over my tasks, not to faint under my burdens.
My heavenly Father, permit no shadows from the wing of doubt
to dim my eye of faith. Help me to work on in this noble call-
ing, sending abroad on every passing breeze the winged germs
that shall fall on good and honest hearts, in this great and
Monday. Jan. lAth, 1867. — Every day convinces me more that
the world is not mine. Thank God it is not! It is dropping
away from me like worn-out autumn leaves, but beneath it,
hidden in it, there is another world, lying as the flower lies in
the bud. That world is mine, and will burst forth by and by,
into eternal luxuriance.
Feb. 8th. — 1 am more and more convirced every day of my
life, that if I would do these poor fallen girls good, I must do
as Christ did; put my hands upon them. As long as they see
that, however much I wish to do them good, yet I have a re-
pugnance to coming in contact with them, they will never trust
or confide in me.
144 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
The only report of Aunt Lizzie's work in connec-
tion with the Refnge, which can be fonnd, extends
only over the first seven months. Taking that as a
criterion of the whole two years, she probably made
as many as five thousand visits of all kinds, a thou-
sand of whicli were tor the express purpose of sav-
ing unhappy, sinful women, and inducing them to
return with her to the Kefuge. Between forty and
fifty were persuaded so to do, and if a few of them
wandered ofi" again to their old haunts, it was in
spite of the tenderest care and Christian watchful-
ness on the part of the devoted women who took
charge of them. Many were saved, and to-day bless
the fearless woman who, undaunted by danger, in
the spirit of the Great Shepherd, went out after
them until she found them. Over these she re-
joices — aye, and will rejoice through all eternity.
In connection with her other missionary work.
Aunt Lizzie established and carried on during these
two years a "Mothers' Meeting," where she instructed
poor women in sewing, giving them also religious
teaching, and advice in the training of their chil-
dren. She was led in part to this work by her ob-
servation of the great need of stricter maternal dis-
cipline. " So many are ruined by the carelessness
of their mothers," she writes in her journal. "As
I look upon the faces of these poor girls in our fam-
ily at the Refuge, I behold the results of the over-
FIRST TWO YEARS IN CHICAGO. 145
indulgence of some mothers. How many to-night
mourn over their wayward daughters! Oh that
every mother in this land could look upon this fam-
ily and see her duty to her children." Such thoughts
led to the establishment of this meeting for motliers,
which brought the good news of salvation to many.
In July 1867, Aunt Lizzie found herself very
much exhausted, and failing in health. A month's
vacation was spent at Peoria, the beloved spot where
all her burdens seemed to drop oif. Here, as every-
where, she strove to interest those with whom
she came in contact in her work, and successfully.
"While she lay ill on the sofa, the ladies came to-
gether and put up two hundred pounds of fruit,
which the Sunday-school scholars gathered, bring-
ing to Aunt Lizzie great baskets of cherries, and
pails of all kinds of seasonable berries. The cans
and sugar were donated by the grocers. Thus, when
refreshed by much-needed rest, she returned to the
Refuge, she did not come empty-handed. But a
great change was before her. The problem which
the ladies who founded the " Refuge '' endeavored to
solve is one so tangled and hopeless, that the greater
part of Aunt Lizzie's labor was necessarily thrown
away upon those who made no response whatever
to her message of Christian fors^iveness. The lost
sheep had no desire to be saved, and even when
her prayers and tears awoke repentance, their wills
146 THE STORY OF A UNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
were so enslaved by the fascinations which surround-
ed them, that they lacked the moral courage to dis-
engage themselves from their sinful life. Even
those who have been led into vice by the wickedness
of others often become content with their degrada-
tion, and hopeless of anything better. The efforts
of a single arm even though it be that of a strong
swimmer, seem powerless to buffet the waves of
both public censure and sinful allurement. Even if
rescued, many return again to their life of vice.
The strong hand of the law is needed to put a stop
to such a state of things. Crime must be recognized
and punished as such. And yet, alas, a great ele-
vation of Christian sentiment must be attained
before this will be possible. Surely, so long as these
terrible vices walk with impunity through the streets
of our cities, the church has no time to take her
ease and amuse herself among the booths of Yauity
In Sept., 1867, Aunt Lizzie writes in her journal:
" The committee met to-day, and announced to me that they
feared that they could not employ me any longer. They felt that
they needed me much, but saw no way in which they could sus-
tain me. I received the news calmly ; I went into my room and
held my Bible close to my heart, for it was all that I had, weep-
ing all alone, when I remembered the dying words of my old
grandfather, uttered many years ago: ' Only trust Him, only
trust Him,' and kneeling down beside my bed, I prayed, when
it seemed to me I could almost hear the gentle voice of Jesus
saying: ' Have I ever left you; do you think I will leave you
FIRST TWO YEAh'S IN CHICAGO. 147
now?' I was comforted— I can scarcely tell how, but I laid
down and slept. In the morning I arose feeling remarkably
calm and trustful, sure that some way would be opened for me
that would be right and best."
Hearing of a position in St. Louis, she applied
to Col. Gilmore, head of the Chicago post-office,
who promised to obtain for her a railroad pass to
that city, but being busy, he postponed doing it
till the following morning. When Aunt Lizzie re-
turned the next day, she found the post-office draped
with mourning, and learned that her friend had been
drowned while bathing the preceding evening. Of
course her journey to St. Louis was rendered impos-
sible, as she could not afford to pay the price of a
ticket. She decided to await the return of another
acquaintance, of influence in procuring passes, w^ho
was absent from the city. In the meantime, she re-
ceived a letter from the superintendent of the Sun-
day-school of the Second Baptist church of Chicago,
offering her a situation as missionary of the school.
" Sunday, Sept. 8th. — This morning, according to promise,
visited the Sunday-school. Bro. Holden introduced me to the
scholars as their new missionary. I could only reply to them
by saying: ' Never be afraid to speak for Jesus, never be
afraid to work for Jesus, never be afraid to live for Jesus, never
be afraid to die for Jesus.' After 1 had addressed a few words
to the children, the pastor, Rev. Mr. Goodspeed, gave me a
most cordial welcome. The school closed by singing ' Never be
afraid to speak for Jesus.' I then listened to an able sermon
by the pastor, from these words: ' But it is good to be zeal-
ously affected always in a good thing.' '*
148 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Soon after, amid the tears and regrets of all in
the house, she left the Refuge, to begin her work,
which still continues, with the Second Baptist
Church of Cliicago. "Once more I committed my-
self to God and strangers, and time will show how
I stand the test," slie writes to a friend. Time has
shown; she has stood for twelve years among the
members of that church, a tower of strength, the
center of an influence how wide and salutary her
most intimate friends scarcely know. Fitted by her
very failings to do work among the poor and the
tempted, she fills a place that few will realize until
some day it will be empty, when she will not be
tliere, because God has taken her.
A UNT LIZZIE IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL.
The position to which Aunt Lizzie was apppoint-
ed by the Second Baptist Churcli was that of Sun-
day-school missionary. Her work was to gather
children into the school, to instruct classes unpro-
vided with teachers, to entertain such strangers as
might drop into the school on Sunday morning, and
to visit and look after absentees. Such a work in
connection with a Sabbath-school, which at times
enrolls on its book of members over a thousand
names, is broad enough to employ the time and
task the energies of any woman. It is, however,
but the beginning of Aunt Lizzie's labors in the
Second Church. She has really been church mis-
sionary, visiting the sick and the poor and inter-
esting herself in everybody and every good thing
connected with the congreo-ation. All these dif-
ferent lines of work have, in course of time, be-
come as closely intertwined as the different colored
strands in a Persian carpet, and it is almost im-
possible to separate them. Still, for many reasons,
150 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
it lias seemed to us best to analyze her labors, and
we begin, as she did, with her work in the Sunday-
She has the first and greatest qualification of a
ffood teacher — unbounded afiection for children and
sympathy with them. When among them she be-
comes, for the time being, a child herself, and en-
joys a good game as well as when she was a little
girL How often have I seen her surrounded by the
younger members of my own family, questioning
the older children about their success in study or
sport, looking at picture books with the little girls
or admiring their dollies' dresses, praising their
sewing, or binding up cut fingers. The unanimous
verdict of all children is, " How nice it would be if
Aunt Lizzie were our own auntie and lived in our
Then she has great love for Sunday-school work,
and thoroughly believes in it. There is nothing
half-hearted in her desire for the conversion of
children. Converted herself at twelve years of
age, she knows that a child can believe in Christ,
and all her subsequent experience and observation
have only strengthened her in this faith. Through
long years of work in the church, she has found
that those who profess conversion in early life prove,
as a rule, to be the most consistent and faithful
Christians, and that the results of Sunday-school
IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL. 151
work are actually greater than those of any other
method of labor. With such convictions of the
heart as well as the head, Aunt Lizzie entered upon
her career as Sunday-school missionary.
At the very beginning of her work, she drew up
for herself a series of rules of life which are well
worth the study of every teacher.
" I am resolved that I will never, either in the morning or the
evening, proceed to any work, until I have first retired, at least
for a few moments, to a private place and implored God for his
assistance and blessing."
" I will neither do, nor undertake anything which I would
abstain from doing if Jesus Christ were standing visibly at my
side; nor anything of which I think it is possible that I shall
repent in the uncertain hour of my certain death.
" I wU], with God's help, accustom myself to do everything
without exception, in the name of Jesus, and, as his disciple, to
sigh unto God continually, keeping myself in a constant disposi-
tion for prayer.
" Every day shall be distinguished by at least one particular
work of love.
"Wherever I go I will first pray to God that I may commit
no sin there, but may be the cause of some good.
" I will every evening examine my conduct by these rules.
" Oh God, thou seest what I have written. May I be able to
read ihese my resolutions every morning with sincerity, and
every evening with joy."
In this spirit she began her labors, which have
continued without intermission for almost twelve
years. The history and manner of her work can
best be told by incidents, for this is a life where
152 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
deeds speak louder than any amount of written
theory or any number of statistics.
In the early days of her work for the Second
Church, she met a little fellow selling newspapers.
He ran up to her, and said, "Lady, will you buy a
paper?" His bright, though dirty face attracted her
attention, and in order to begin an acquaintance, she
took and paid for one. As she was opening hei
purse, she said to him. " My lad, do you go to
" No," said he, " no one ever asked me to attend."
She cordially invited him to meet her at the church-
door the next Sunday morning, and bring with him
any of his brothers or sisters who could come. lie
replied that he had but one brother, and that they
would be sure to be on hand.
Aunt Lizzie gave him one of her little cards of
invitation, on which is the direction to the church,
and passing on to other interests, the chance meet-
ing slipped from her mind.
What was her pleasure on nearing the door of
the school-room the next Sunday morning to see
two little boys, with well washed faces and clean
collars, waiting for her. As she came down the
street they flew to meet her, and entered the school-
room holding tightly the hands of their only friend
in that strange place.
Aunt Lizzie placed them in charge of a teacher
IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL. 153
whom she knew to be faithful, one who watched for
souls. But she did not lose her personal interest
in them. Her soul yearned for their conversion,
and with many prayers she besought the Great
Shepherd to gather these lambs into His fold. Nor
were her hopes frustrated. The older brother, the
bright-faced newsboy, received in that Sunday-school
a new and higher impulse, both for this life and
the better life which is in Christ. He was convert-
ed and united with the clmrch when about fifteen
years old. Shortly after he left the city to atteiid
college, where he worked day and night to earn
money with which to pay for his education. He
graduated with great honor, one of the best schol-
ars in his class, and is to-day a prosperous surveyor,
and an honored Christian man.
Thus it is that Aunt Lizzie sees many of her
Sunday-school boys and girls, filling places of in-
fluence and trust in the Christian church, and the
sight is the crowning joy of her life.
No doubt they make better men and women on
account of the education in benevolence which they
receive from Aunt Lizzie. She calls upon the chil-
dren to help her in her work among the sick and
the poor. In her life among the dying in the hos-
pitals, she learned to appreciate the value of flowers
to the sick, and some years ago resolved to start a
flower mission in the Sunday-school. One spring
154: THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
when tlie time came around for planting gardens,
she called upon the children and their parents to
assist her by raising flowers for distribution. Soon
the bouquets began to adorn the school-room, some-
times as many as forty or fifty were brought; these
were put in water till after church, when Aunt
Lizzie gave one to each child, who volunteered to
deliver them, with the number of the house of some
sick or poor person, and sent off a happy company
of little home missionaries. The enthusiasm of the
children spread to their parents, who frequently
brought bouquets to the church for Aunt Lizzie's
flower mission, and children living a little out of
town added their contribution of wild-flowers.
This proved a most blessed idea not only for those
who received, but also for those who gave.
But Aunt Lizzie does not confine her young help-
ers to the aBSthetic wants of the needy. She calls
upon the school to help her gather clothing for the
poor, especially for such scholars as need aid. It
is wonderful how greatly the Christ-like spirit of
benevolence can be quickened in the hearts of some
children. Blessed is the memory of one lovely
child. Every spring and fall she brought all the
clothes she could beg from her mother, and opening
her bundle, would say, " Aunt Lizzie, this, I think,
will do for that boy in Mr. A's class; did you notice
how old his jacket is? And this dress is just large
IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL. 155
enouffli for that girl in Miss B's class." Thus her
quick eyes often noted poverty which asking noth-
ing, might otherwise have been overlooked.
During the winter, when the Benevolent Society
of the church provides great quantities of clothing,
and often provisions, for Aunt Lizzie to dispense,
she calls to her aid the Sunday-school boys, who
delight to carry her bundles, and receive many a
lesson of kindness and sympathy from her lips. Of
all this great number of children, with whom she
comes in contact in the Sunday-school, she remem-
bers in a remarkable manner the faces and the
names. Meeting them anywhere upon the street,
she says, " How is my boy?" or " How is my girl?
How do mother and father do?" recalling in a flash
all the circumstances of the family. Thus each
child looks on her as his special friend, and growing
up consults her as a mother, in the trials that come
with increasing years and responsibilities.
Saturday is in a special manner Aunt Lizzie's
Sunday-school day. On Saturday, she distributes
clothing to scholars, who, without it, would be un-
able to attend school next morning. On Saturday,
she often accompanies the teaclier who chooses that
time to visit her scholars, since the public schools
are then closed, and they are usually at home.
Many sweet seasons of Christian communion are
enjoyed as they talk of Christ by the way. It has
156 THE STOBY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN. *.
been for many years a habit of this Sunday-school
for the classes occasionally to meet at the honse of
their teacher . on Saturday afternoon, to take tea.
From these reunions, so full of pleasure to the chil-
dren. Aunt Lizzie is rarely absent. She always
brings with her that good humor, which, as she
says in her diary, is to her mind '• the clear blue sky
of the soul on which every star of talent shines
more and more clearly, the most exquisite beauty
of a handsome face and the most redeeming feature
of a homely one," a good humor which is infectious,
and adds to the pleasure of the gayest little com-
During the summer, her greatest pleasure is to
join in the class picnics in which the teacher and
children now and then indulge. Sometimes they go
to one of the lovely parks, which are found on the
outskirts of our city; sometimes they are invited to
spend the afternoon with some friends so happy as
to live' in the country.
But the crowning event of the summer is the an
nual picnic of the entire school, though it must be
confessed that to Aunt Lizzie it is a day of great
toil and care. Some weeks beforehand she is en-
gaged in preparing for the occasion. Many poor
children, scarcely ever less than fifty, come to her
with very long, sad faces and say, "Aunt Lizzie, I
cannot go to the picnic because I went last year, and
IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL. 157
Joe tlie year before. Mother says she cannot get
clothes to make me look nicely enough. " " Never
mind, my dear, " says Aunt Lizzie, " I will see to
it. " And sure enough, a day or tvTO before they are
needed, jackets, shoes and dresses are mysteriously
found and supplied, while nobody enjoys the picnic
so much as those who did not expect to go, unless,
it may be, those who provide Aunt Lizzie with
the means of sendino: tliem.
When the baskets are packed for dinner, each
family provides for an extra person, and bakers fre-
quently^ send in boxes of crackers and gingerbread,
so that Aunt Lizzie's family does not go hungry or
lack for a share of all the dainties.
But Aunt Lizzie's labors among the children are
by no means confined to the period of their active
membership in the Sunday-school. She has a mis-
sion of comfort and aid for those who are sick. Her
visiting list has included many helpless children,
whose beds of pain have been smoothed by her kind
touch. She gathers pictures and copies of cheerful
verses, or short stories, puts them into a little box,
and places them in the eager hands of the little in-
valid, who finds many a weary hour shortened by
her though tfulness. She spends much time in
reading to them, and does not count the minutes
wasted when she is cheering or amusing a sick
158 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
The story of one dear child, who is not, for God
took her, illustrates Aunt Lizzie's care of her schol-
ars in want and sickness. Some ten years ago,
Aunt Lizzie became interested in a little family con-
sisting of a mother and three children. The eldest,
a charming girl eight years old, she led into the
Sunday-school. The mother was compelled to labor
as a sales- woman, in order to sustain her little ones,
and the children were left all day in the care of the
oldest sister. Aunt Lizzie, knowing of their lonely
life, and feeling that she must do the work which
their mother was unable to perform, fell into the
habit of paying them frequent visits, which were full
of joy to them all. They were good singers, and Aunt
Lizzie spent mnch time in teaching them hymns
and Sunday-school songs. She tauglit them also
the Scriptures, and was surprised at the maturity
and beauty of the mind of the little girl, who acted
as mother to the younger children during the long
hours of the day, with a thoughtful care and kind-
ness that could not be too much admired. Yery
soon the prayers and instructions of her loving
friend resulted in the conversion of the gentle child,
and, at ten years of age, she was received into the
church. Then Aunt Lizzie felt great solicitude
that she should grow up a true and faithful Christian,
and strove in her visits to train her to a life of use
fulness. It proved, however, that she was prepar-
IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL. 159
ing the child for a life of glory in the kingdom of
God. One winter day, a mischievous boy throwing
snowballs, struck Ida a severe blow with one. The
bruise developed into an abscess, and she fell into
consumption. For several years she lived a life of
Unable longer to attend the girl's meeting, she
never forgot it, but sent her "promise " every week
by her little brother. A few days before she died,
she chose that glorious passage: "Beloved, now are
we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear
what we shall be; but we know that when He shall
appear, we shall be like Him ; for we shall see Him
as He is." Aunt Lizzie's visits were now more than
ever welcome; many were the little delicacies that
she brought to tempt the failing appetite, many the
loving words with which she soothed the pain and
weariness of the patient sufferer. The whole Sun-
day-school became full of sympathy; classes of girls
often met with the superintendent at Ida's house
on Sunday afternoon for little meetings of praise
and prayer. The day she died. Aunt Lizzie sat by
her bedside all the afternoon and sang softly her
favorite hymns to the serene and happy Christian.
Sm'ely, earth has no greater joy than that of minis-
tering to Christ's little ones; heaven can have no
higher reward than to hear the voice of Jesus say-
ing, " Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these,
ye did it unto me.'*
160 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
For many months Aunt Lizzie made her home
with a widowed lady, whose only child was a great
sufferer. The poor boy became greatly attached to
her and she took him into her heart as her own son.
Through the long afternoon he waited impatiently
for her return from her round of visits. No sooner
had she entered the door than he would exclaim,
" There is Aunt Lizzie, ask her to come to me."
However weary she might be, she could never re-
fuse to sing for him. God has bestowed on her the
gift of song; her voice has always had the power of
soothing pain, and quieting racked nerves. Often
through the long winter evenings she sat and sang
one hymn after another till far into the night;
Dickey never satisfied, always begging for one more.
His favorite of them all was, "Come to Jesus just
now." Over and over she sang it, and one day he
cheered her heart by saying softly, when she had
finished, " That's it, Aunt Lizzie, that's the plan of
salvation; I do come, I do trust in Jesus."
Very early one Sabbath morning, he felt that he
was dying, and sent for Aunt Lizzie to come to his
room. She sat by him all day, while his mother, ex-
hausted by many sleepless nights, lay on the sofa.
When the bell rang for Sunday-school, he lifted his
head quickly, " Hear the bell," he said, " are you
not going?" " No, my son," answered Aunt Lizzie,
" I am going to stay with you tc Jay " He
IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL. 161
breathed a sigh of satisfaction and said, " It is my
last Sabbath." At intervals through the long day,
she sang to him his favorite hymns, and helped his
mother in the last ministrations of love. At sun-
down, as Aunt Lizzie sat by him alone, he said sud-
denly, "Tell my mother that I want her," and in a
few minutes the two women who loved him best,
resigned him with tears into the loving hands of his
For some years the Second Church maintained
several mission-schools, most of which have since
been set off as churches. Not content with attend-
ing two services, and the morning home-school. Aunt
Lizzie, at that time, frequently spent her Sunday
afternoons in visiting these mission-schools. She
makes many entries in her journal of such visits,
when she sang for the children or made little
speeches to them, sometimes putting questions on
the blackboard for them to answer. Their festivals
too were never neglected. It must always be under-
stood that Aunt Lizzie acts as almoner for the grand
church which she represents. What a depth of be-
nevolence is shown by the following entry of a visit
to a school eight miles distant, across the city, from
the parent church. " Went out to the Stock Yards'
Mission to attend their festival. Carried out a bar-
rel of apples, seven baskets of peaches, a case of
choice grapes, five pounds of candy, half a bushel
162 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN,
of biscuits and butter, twenty-five loaves of cake.
Had a charming time. The children all had their
Btomaclis, hands, and pockets tilled ; many packages
sent to the widowed mothers and the poor families.
On my way home, carried a large basket of luxuries
to a widow, and another to an invalid."
Nor is her interest confined to the schools con-
nected with her own church. At all Sunday-school
conventions held in the vicinity of Chicago, and
most of those in the State, Aunt Lizzie is to be
found, an honored guest, and a stirring speaker.
"When she first came to Chicago, Aunt Lizzie
began a diary, which she has kept ever since. It
was commenced at the request of her beloved mother,
who was anxious to know more of her daughter's
labors than could be told in an occasional letter.
Any one reading these volumes could not fail to be
impressed with the wisdom and freshness of many
of her observations, jotted down often at midnight,
in great haste and weariness. Some of these char-
acteristic notes may prove profitable to Sunday-
school workers, coming as they do from a veteran in
the field, whose opportunities for studying the sub-
ject have been surpassed by but few.
" It is not by a few great and brilliant efforts that Christ's
work is to be done, but by those influences, indirect as well as
positive, which distil from a life. Patient, earnest, Christian
labor never fails. Its results may be unrecognized by the world,
but they are not unseen nor unblest by Christ himself, for whose
dear sake it has been wrought.
IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL. Idii
" Why not look for success? I have long- since learned that
it is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to
Jesus. A true Christian man or woman is a strong weapon in
the hand of God. He wants little helpers as well as preachers
in His church. He has called me to this quiet work, and I take
a world of comfort in knowing that God chose me for His child
when He foresaw just what a child I would be. He was ac-
quainted with all my faults, my history, my circumstances.
He does not promise to release us from our unfortunate, natural
peculiarities; though in the greatness of his giving. He often
tenders wonderful relief. He promises peace with God in spite
of self and sin, and the tempter's power of evil.
" When I can expect help from no other, I can expect it from
God. God has chosen the foolish things of the world and the
weak things of the world to accomplish His work. I never
realized this fully tOl I got well inside the vineyard myself.
Some I found with great intellectual qualifications, and others
with very little of this world's learning, yet they were alike
men of great power. Those who brought great learning into
the vineyard with them, 1 noticed set no value at all upon it,
except so far as it furthers their work for Christ, being deter-
mined to know nothing among the people, save Jesus Chi-ist
and Him crucified. And truly one who knows Jesus Christ and
the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffer-
ing, has little else to learn to fit him for vineyard work. Just
in proportion as I know Christ, I know myself. When I
learn this, that I am weak, and know nothing, and that Christ
is everything, I am able to do what Christ bids me to do. God
is my helper. What a comfort to think that it is this Almighty
Helper, who appoints to each one his labor. He knows just
how much I can do, and He knows just how much He will have
to help me, and He will never fail to do it.
" Tl.ere is a faith in some which tends to idleness, trusts God
to do all, and thus leaves the soul stupid and powerless. In
others there is a faith that worries and works, and hopes that
164 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
God will help. But, oh, there is a truer, better faith that
works mightily, because it loves fervently; that never worries
because it never fears. Love will, must woi'k, r„nd cannot be
idle. It conies from God, and breathes itself out in prayer,
praises and service, like springs that cannot be suppressed.
It is spontaneous and grows by use. Faith that works by love
is a tonic to the soul, strengthening it for bold endeavor,
making it like God in active doings, in every service that can
assuage a grief, relieve a pain, or impart a joy."
" A true Christian living in the world is like a ship sailing
on the ocean. It is not the ship being in the water that will
sink it, but the water getting into the ship. So in like man-
ner the Christian is not ruined by living in the world, which
he must needs do whila he remains in the body, but by the
world living in him."
A UNT LIZZIE'S GIRLS' MEETING.
A YEAK before Aunt Lizzie came to the Second
Clmrcli, tlie pastor had established a prayer-meeting
for girls and placed it under the efficient leadership
of Miss Ellen M. Sprague. It was held on Friday
afternoons, in order to interfere as little as possible
with the studies of school-girls, and immediately
took strong root and began to flourish. When Aunt
Lizzie began her work for the Sunday-school, this
meeting was handed over to her as coming within
her province. She found it with an attendance of
from ten to twenty. As years went on, this number
gradually increased until at times the average attend-
ance has been from fifty to sixty. Aunt Lizzie
was no novice in instructing young girls in the
gospel. As far back as 1840, she had held a girls'
meeting of three, when her little neiglibors on Rock
River, came to spend Sunday afternoons with her.
In Brimfield, also, as we have before stated, she used
her Sunday-school class as the nucleus of a gathering
for praise and prayer. Always delighting in chil-
166 THE STORY OF A UNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
dren, she has been through life in full sympathy
with young girls, and possesses great power of lead-
The design and scope of her meeting in Chicago
are best set forth in her own words, taken from one
of her annual addresses.
"The object of the girls' meeting is purely religious. "We
come together to read the Word of God, and repeat His prom-
ises; then in prayerand supplication we ask our Heavenly Fath-
er to bless His own truth to the salvation of each. It is here I
urge upon you your need of a Savior, seeking with all my heart
to teach you what is necessary in order to become a Christian.
First, you must see and feel that you are a sinner, then trust
Christ as your Savior. First repentance, then obedience. Here,
too, you learn the truthful lesson that there is no joy, no prog-
ress in a Christian life, unless that life, without reserve, be given
to the Lord Jesus Christ.
" Your attendance on our Friday afternoon meeting has
made it my grand rallying point in this dear church, where I
can meet you, and we can sit down together at the Savior's
feet, each repeating a Scripture text, and giving a recital of our
week 8 experience."
We have been requested to give the exact man-
ner in which this meeting, so fruitful of good, is
conducted. In the first place, it is considered one
of the regular appointments of the church, and is
given out every Sundaj' morning with the other
notices for the week. Tlien Aunt Lizzie and the
working members form, together, a committee on
invitation. They all have the good of the meeting
so much at heart that they voluntarily work for it,
AUNT LIZZIE'S GIRLS' MEETING. 167
bringing in their school-mates and friends. On
FriJav afternoon tliej meet at four o'clock, many
coming directly from the public-school, with books
and slates, l^o change of dress is considered neces-
sary. Small as this fact may appear, it is one of
considerable consequence. It is of great in)por-
taiice for the success of such a meeting, that as little
distinction as possible should be made between rich
and poor, that all may feel that they are at home.
Aunt Lizzie herself always takes charge of the
exercises, though occasionally she calls upon some
visitor to pray. The girls know that no matter
what the weather may be, she will be there to meet
them, and are encouraged by her faithfulness to
be faithful themselves. Singing takes up consid-
erable time, then reading of the Bible, with running
comments suited to their age, and prayer. After-
wards, each attendant, beginning with the leader,
repeats a text of Scripture. So generally are the
promises chosen, that the girls have come to call
texts repeated there their promises. In case of ab-
sence. Aunt Lizzie encourages them to copy out
some passage from the Bible and send it to be read
One element of success is that the girls are taught
to consider the meeting their own. They pray,
talk, and select hymns to sing. Older visitors are
not expected to take time which belongs to the
168 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
regular attendants, though often called upon to
address the meeting. Aunt Lizzie encourages the
girls to tell their difficulties in leading a Christian
life, and advises, counsels, or reproves, as the case
Different subjects or objects for praj^er are pre-
sented at each meeting by the girls themselves.
About two thousand different members have been
enrolled during the twelve j^ears. Owing to the
fluctuating life of a city there are only a few who
have attended for a series of years, but the number
is well kept up, and those who leave the city do not
forget the blessed place of prayer. At the last an-
nual meeting thirteen letters were read from absent
members, residing in as many difterent States.
Once a month there is a meeting of the " Band
of Helpers." This is a " Mission Band," whose ob-
ject is to aid the " Woman's Baptist Foreign Mis-
sionary Society." It was formed during the summer
of 1874, and was the first in the Chicago Association.
To this meeting are brought contributions for
sending the gospel to the heathen. Every year one
of their number, chosen by themselves, is made a
life-member of the Woman's Society, by the pay-
ment of twenty-five dollars. Two or three years
ago they pledged themselves to pay forty dollars a
year to educate a Burman girl, in Miss Higby's
school in Maulmain. This amount they could
AUNT LIZZIE'S GIRLS' MEETING. 169
hardly expect to give themselves, but they raise it
by canvassing among friends.
The flower-mission which Aunt Lizzie started in
the Sunday-school has of late years been in a great
measure transferred to her girls' meeting. Under
her direction also there is much missionary work
done. A few months ago her Band of Helpers de-
termined to send to Miss Higby a box of articles
for her own use and that of the orphan girls of her
school. With the assistance of the ladies of the
church, they made a valuable donation, almost a
quarter of which they gave themselves. They also
visit sick members of the Band, often going on
Sunday afternoons to sing and pray with those con-
fined to the house.
The short and simple stories of one or two of Aunt
Lizzie's girls cannot fail to be of interest. The
history of these girls was chosen because their life
on earth is finished, so that there can be no possible
objection to the recital.
We have already mentioned the fact that the
" Band of Helpers " support a native girl in Miss
Higby's school in Maulmain. She has been named
by them Hattie Gurney, in memory of a member of
the Band, who died a few months before they took
Sang See under their care. It was fitting that the
girls should thus honor their departed friend, for
she seems to have been one of those rare Christians
170 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
in whom the loveliness of the heavenly life strongly
manifests itself even here on earth. She and her
sister attended the girl's meeting from the time of
its inception, and were both converted there. Hattie
had a character whose great sincerity shone forth
in her daily life. She not only talked to her friends
and companions about Christ, and prayed fervently,
but she also lived the gospel before them, exem-
plifying it with such sweetness, and humility, that
those who saw her knew that she had been with
Jesu8> Step by step the Father led her heavenward,
till she reached the pearly gate, and quietly stepping
over the golden threshold, was at home.
As Aunt Lizzie stood looking for the last time
on the sweet face, so placid in its rest, her heart was
filled with inexpressible joy and peace, and from
her inmost soul she thanked God for the years of
sacred fellowship and communion which she had
enjoyed with the departed one. She writes: "I
shall ever love to dwell upon her memory, saying,
'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see
God.' My soul has never grieved over any act of
hers, for she never did anything to dishonor God
or disgrace His church."
One day Aunt Lizzie noticed a stranger in her
meeting, and, according to her custom, went imme-
diately at the close of the services and said, " My
dear girl, we are so glad to see you here," and in-
AUNT LIZZIE'S GIRLS' MEETING. lYl
vited her to the Sunday-school. She learned by de-
grees Nellie's sad history. She was a stranger in
the city. Her mother was dead, her father became
dissipated, and with her little brother she had come
to Chicago to live with their aunt. Aunt Lizzie at
once made the acquaintance of the whole family,
and when, soon after, the father followed his chil-
dren, she united her efforts with theirs to induce him
to reform, but with only partial success.
About a year from the time Aunt Lizzie first
met her, Nellie came and wished to secure her co-
operation in a plan which she had formed. She
said that her aunt was a feeble woman, that her un-
cle was poor, and that she did not want to be a bur-
den to them. She therefore desired to learn a trade,
and would like best to be a dress-maker. Aunt
Lizzie's first question was, " Have you consulted
your aunt?" " No," said Nellie; "that is just what
I came to see you about. I have asked her to in-
vite you to tea to-morrow evening, and when I in-
troduce the subject, I want you to help me persuade
her to let me do as I wish about it." Of course
Aunt Lizzie consented, and by their united plead-
ing, the old lady was induced to lay aside her pride
and give her consent to the arrangement. Aunt
Lizzie then secured Nellie an excellent place.
Soon after this the little brother died, and in his
sorrow, the father turned for comfort to his drink-
172 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
ing habits, instead of to God. Whenever he he-
came sober, he was intensely mortified at his own
behavior, and finally, to escape from the entreat-
ies of his daughter, he went to St. Louis, where he
died in a fit of delirium tremens. Two years after,
her uncle died, leaving his wife to Nellie, who sup-
ported and tenderly cared for her, until she, too,
dying, left the poor girl all alone in the world.
Then it was that she turned with increased love
to Aunt Lizzie, and clung to her as if she had been
her own mother. For five years this kind friend
advised and comforted her. One evening return-
ing from the day's round of visits she heard that
Nellie was very ill. She had come home from her
work the night before through the falling snow,
her clothes wet to her knees; the next morning she
awoke covered with measles, in a room without a
fire. For seven days Aunt Lizzie did everything
she could devise for her, but on one of the stormiest
nights in March, was called to see her die. As she
came into the room, Nellie called feebly to her,
" Come here. Aunt Lizzie, let me kiss you once
more, to express my love and gratitude to you."
Taking the dear face of her only earthly friend be-
tween her icy hands, she kissed it again and again
until her lips stiffened in death.
AUNT LIZZIE AMONG THE SICK.
In the last twelve years, Aunt Lizzie has made at
least twelve thousand visits to the sick. This num-
ber is taken from actual entries in her diaries.
These visits are not calls of condolence only, but in
many cases she takes the place of nurse and doctor,
as well as friend. Her life in the hospitals fitted
her admirably for such work, as she learned at that
time to di-ess wounds and prescribe for all ordinary
diseases. She was obliged also to lay aside all fas-
tidiousness in regard to the cleanliness of her patient
or his surroundings, and by this drill has been ena-
bled to do repulsive work whenever in her missionary
labors, it has been demanded. Her visitations have
not been confined by any means to the sick of her
own congregation, but for years she has been sent
for by strangers in different parts of the city to come
and pray with them. Thus her work among the
sick is very extensive.
Often when some member of a destitute family
dies, and Aunt Lizzie mentions the fact, those who
174 THE STORY OF AUKT LIZZIE AIKEN.
hear the announcement, little know the amount of
labor which is implied. In many cases she be-
gins by laying out the dead, providing all the gar-
ments, of which she has a store laid by, the contri-
butions of friends. She next goes for the under-
taker, and provides for the burial of the poor body,
sees that a notice of the funeral service is given out,
and procures singers for the occasion. Afterwards
she inquires into the wants of the family and meets
them, even to a little decent mourning, and calls
in the neighbors to the funeral. How many steps
all this necessitates, can only be known to those
who have done like duties.
It is not the poor only, who in sickness call upon
Aunt Lizzie. Her friends all know her power of
comfort and sympathy, and send for her to come
and help them in various ways. A sick boy, just
returned from Colorado, unbenefited, said one day
to his mother, "Do send for Aunt Lizzie; 1 have
eaten nothing in so long, that relishes at all; I am
sure she could prescribe something." When she
came he told her his desire. " Certainly my dear
boy, " said she, " I will go right home and prepare
your dinner myself; just you wait a few minutes."
In a very short time she returned. She had found
that chicken soup was over the fire, had filled a
pretty china cup, covered it, and brought it over
immediately. As she approached the house she
AMONG THE SICK. 175
eaw the sick boy at the window, following her wist-
fully with his eyes, and when she gave him the
soup, he drank every drop. " Ah, mother," said
he, " it takes Aunt Lizzie to find out what 1
In many cases Aunt Lizzie's care for a sick per-
son extends over years, and her anxiety for the spir-
itual welfere of the sufferer, is even greater than
her sympathy on account of his bodily pain. If
her friend is already a Christian, she delights to
read the comforting portions of Scripture, and talk
of the promises; but if the soul is far from God, her
desire for its salvation knows no bounds.
Some years ago she became acquainted with a
family that hud no interest whatever in religion.
She succeeded in securing the two little girls for her
Sunday-school, and continued for years to visit them
frequently. She had a great desire for the conversion
of the mother, but though she often spoke to her of
the needs of her soul, could receive no encourage-
ment, that she would even think of the matter.
One day in particular Aunt Lizzie called and found
her friend so cold and hard, that her soul was sur-
charged with sorrow. As she left the house, she
feared that she was not doing what the Lord wanted
in regard to saving that family, and was so full of
trouble, that passing along by a vacant lot, she turned
her face to the fence and cried to God for help.
176 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
After four years, during which time Aunt Lizzie
had become very intimate with the family, signs of
consumption manifested themselves in the mother,
and for two years she was a confirmed invalid. All
this time Aunt Lizzie most earnestly sought God
on her behalf, but received no satisfactory evidence
of her repentance.
One day she spoke to the sick woman of the con-
version of a friend; told how she said that the Holy
Spirit had convinced her of her sin, and led her to
" "Well," replied the invalid, " she needed a
change, I am sure."
"Not more than you and I," said Aunt Lizzie;
" the same Holy Spirit will work in us, if we desire
" Do you think," asked the sick woman, " that I
need the same forgiveness?"
" Perhaps you need more," was the answer: " your
privileges have been greater, and so are your re-
"But still," persisted her friend, "is it not
strange that there is only one way of salvation, for
both wicked and good?"
"There are none good," said Aunt Lizzie; "we
are all sinners, and it is wonderful to me that Christ
was willing to sufier and die that sinners might be
AMONG THE SICK. 177
The sick woman turned her face to the wall, and
refused to continue the conversation, and Aunt
Lizzie, as often before, went away with a sorrowful
heart — for it seemed to her that here was one of
those who are unwilling to be saved.
In October, Aunt Lizzie was absent from the city
for a few days. Her sick friend, missing her visits,
became very anxious for her return. Now that she
could no longer argue and object, she began in si-
lence to think ; and the longer she meditated, the
more disturbed she became. Day after day she sent
to see if Aunt Lizzie had come home; she felt that
.she could not die, without hearing once more the
gospel which she had so often rejected.
The first word Aunt Lizzie received on her return,
in a cold, raw, November rain, was the message to
repair at once to her dying friend, who threw her
emaciated arms around her neck, and cried," I thank
God that I am allowed to see you face to face once
more. You little dream what you have done for me
in your many visits. No prayer uttered has failed
to leave its impress; no word expressed has failed
to have its desired effect." In great bitterness of
soul she cried, " What shall I do to be saved ?
How did you come to Jesus?" Aunt Lizzie told
her that she did only what Jesus bade her; the
Bible said, " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and
178 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
thou shalt be saved ;" that she took Christ at His word
and besought him to heal her, and he heard her
prayer. She then read the excellent little tract,
" It is all in believing," and sang, " There is a foun-
tain filled with blood." But it was when Aunt
Lizzie told her of the leper's prayer, "Lord, if thou
wilt, thou canst make me clean," and the Savior's
precious answer, that the dying woman grasped the
truth, and cried, " Oh, Aunt Lizzie, pray with me,
help me to pray;" and kneeling by the bed the faith-
ful Christian pleaded for the sin-tossed soul, that the
Holy Spirit would finish His blessed work and reveal
Christ to the darkened eyes. When she ended, the
sick woman prayed for herself, and cried, "Lord I
believe, help thou my unbelief."
For nearly two weeks Aunt Lizzie visited her
daily, finding her always calm and peaceful. Her
great bitterness of soul was exchanged for a confid-
ing trust in the Lord Jesus. One morning her
husband came and said that she wished Aunt Liz-
zie to spend the last day with her. She seemed no
worse than before, but her expressed wish came
from the strange, intuitive knowledge, often possess-
ed by the sick, of approaching death, for the next
morning, at nine o'clock, she departed. As her
faithful friend stood and saw her pass over Jordan,
she could but rejoice with her.
The following year one of the daughters died, re-
AMONG THE SICK. 179
joicing in Christ, saying, " Aunt Lizzie's visits, with
mj mother's confirmation of the truth of what she
taught, have brought me to Christ."
Yisiting the sick is emphatically evangelistic
work. There are many who, when strong and well^
avoid all reference to religion, but when stretched
on a bed of pain, are eager to see those whom they
believe to be the friends of God. Hence much of
Aunt Lizzie's missionary work is done by the sick
The two eldest children, in a family of Aunt
Lizzie's acquaintance, became Christians and were
brought into the church. The father was not a be-
liever in the Lord Jesus, but a man of a very lovely
natural disposition. When the children were con-
verted. Aunt Lizzie became very desirous of leading
him to Christ, and often asked God to show her
how she might teach him the love of Jesus. One
day, while at tea in his house, he thanked her for
her kindness to his children and her care of their
souls. "With tears, she answered, "My dear sir,
what can I say or do to induce you also to come to
the Savior?" But as yet he had no desire to heed
The next March, one stormy night, she was sent
for to visit this man, who supposed himself to be in
a dying condition. Wrapping herself in her water-
proof cloak, she rapidly walked the eleven blocks to
180 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
his house, and found him in great anguish of souh
His first words were, " Aunt Lizzie, pray, oh pray,
oh pray." With her habit, learned in the army, of
addressing her friends by their first names, she an-
swered at once, " Samuel, I will read you a prayer,
I will sing you a prayer, and I will pray, and I
want you to pray," She read the fifty-first Psalm;
he followed word by word, and as she ended, cried,
" That is me, that is my prayer, my prayer, O God !"
Then she sang, " Jesus, lover of my soul," and knelt
down to pray. It is Aunt Lizzie's conviction,
based on the experience of years, that God does hear
prayer, and as she kneels by the side of those who
ask her to pray for them, she feels that she takes
right hold of the hand of her heavenly Father; she
prays as seeing Him who is invisible.
At daylight she left the sick man peaceful and
trusting in Christ. That sick-bed repentance is not
always transient and spurious, is proved in this in-
stance, for, contrary to his expectations, this man
recovered, and is to-day an honor to his Christian
profession. His repentance was for life.
Aunt Lizzie also carries sympathy and consola-
tion to the bereaved. Not only does she point the
dying to the Savior, and smooth the Christian's
pathway to heaven, but when the strong staff is
broken and the beautiful rod, she is the strength
and stay of the stricken household. She mingles
AMONG THE SICK. 181
her }>ravcrs and tears with those of the mourners,
tells them of the glorious resurrection bj-and-by,
and that we ought to rejoice when a loved one de-
parts to be with Christ. Her diary is full of entries
like the following:
*'This morning I accompanied my dear friends to
Oakwoods Cemetery, where the body of their moth-
er, brought on from Milwaukee for the purpose, was
quietly laid away for its final rest. I sought to
comfort them. Blessed are the dead who die in the
Lord. O, dreamless slumber, unbroken calm, pro-
found and holy; in you these earthly griefs which
wound, these cares that fret, these passions which
rack the soul, find long oblivion. In you the weary
forget their weariness, the troubled their heart-ache.
The wan hands are folded across the still, cold
breast in everlasting respite from toil, the motion-
less, upturned face is smoothed forever from all
traces of mortal anguish. We bless God for thee,
gentle death; thou art the end of temptation, con-
flict, pain and humiliation, and the beginning of
glory and imraortalit3\ Thy valleys of sleep are
bounded by the golden hilltops of heavenly prom-
ise, bathed in the endless dawn of heaven. O,
death, thou hast no sting for the Christian, and
thou, oh grave, no victory over him."
It is not with a thoughtless mind that Aunt Lizzie
walks the streets on her errands of mercy. With
182 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
but little time that she can call her own, she finds
it diflficult to have stated seasons of prayer, but she
has acquired the habit of talking with God by the
way, and meditating on the great subjects of life,
death, and immortality. Keady at any moment as
she is, to pass a merry word with those whom she
may meet, or to break into a hearty laugh over a
trifling jest, such things are but the foam on the
crest of the wave of thought which rolls on, deep
and incessantly. Cheerful and happy she almost
always is, but it is a cheerfulness that is the result
of sanctified sorrow rather than an evidence of free-
dom from care. The record of these thoughts gives
a deeper insight into Aunt Lizzie's mind and .soul
than any attempted analysis could.
" The past month has been one of great peace to my soul. I
have really had a fullness of consolation to which nothing could
be added by mortal. I am happy anywhere, but most at home
with the bereaved, with the tempted and the desponding. The
mother weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted,
the old man grieving for his lost Joseph, the disciple mourning
for his absent Lord, the doubter, at one time like Thomas ready
to die for Jesus, at another time ready to say, ' except I see
the print of the nails, I will not beheve '; such sufferers as these
are my constant companions. They understand me and I un-
'* 'Cast thy burden on the Lord.' For two days this text
has occurred to me again and again, like the refrain of a sweet,
deep song. ' Cast thy burden on the Lord ' is both promise and
command. 'He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.'
But, Lord, I am not righteous, I love thee, but I do continual-
ly what I would not.
AMONG THE SICK. 183
** ' I know it my child,' says Jesus, ' I realize all your sinful-
ness, now here is my forgiveness; trust me and not your own
heart; I gave this trouble to you that you might learn out of the
depths to cast your burden on my strength. You are full of
burdens, I know it, — like as a father pitieth, I pity you, and
60 I say, cast thy burdens every one — sin, shame, weakness,
loss — all on me.'
"0 Lord, loving' and blessed beyond all praise of mine, here
I am. Take my burdens and take me, too. I know, for thou
hast said it, that whatever I give thou accept est, and now,
dear Lord have thine own way with me and mine. There is
nothing great or small left for me to worry about, and this is
the Lord's meaning in stirring me up with trouble and calming
me down to trust."
"Made several calls this afternoon, "Was grieved to learn
from so many that they do not pray. It is through the open
door of the secret place of prayer that all riches fall from heav-
en into contrite and believing souls. There God crowns his
children who prevail with him. There life flows down a heav-
enly river into the spiritual being of the worshiper."
" Sorrow makes a silence in the heart through which God's
voice can be heard. I have sometimes thought that that is the
mission of sorrow."
AUNT LIZZIE'S LABORS AMONG THE POOR.
Although it was as Sundaj-scliool missionary
that Aunt Lizzie entered the Second Church, she
only worked a few weeks before she perceived that
a society for clothing the poor connected with the
congregation was an absolute necessity. Much in-
dividual benevolence had been expended by the
church, but as yet there was no charitable society
among the ladies. Aunt Lizzie found unorganized
liberality insuflBcient to meet the pressing wants
which she saw every day.
So, on the 13th of November, 1867, she spent the
entire day in inviting the ladies to meet on the
morrow to start a sewing and benevolent society,
that she might have wherewithal to clothe the poor.
The next day twenty-five ladies responded to the
call, and organized a sewing-circle, which has had a
vigorous existence ever since and has done a world
of good. Aunt Lizzie, as the almoner of this society,
has distributed to the poor the garments they have
made. But she has also drawn from many other
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 185
sources. The poor-fund of the church, and the
benevolence of friends both in the city and in dis-
tant places hare supplied her with money. Many
donations from the country come to her, of fruit
and clothing. Her reports contain many entries
like the following: " My annual contribution from
an old friend on Kock River, two barrels of apples,
and two of potatoes; cases of plums, grapes and
bed-linen from a lady in Tarry town, New York;
fifty garments from Wisconsin ; wine and canned
fruit from California." Money for her needs comes
to her from many States, from Massachusetts to the
far West, her soldier boys contributing considera-
ble of it, knowing that to give to her poor will
please her better than to give to herself. By look-
ing over her reports we find that in ten years she
made nearly forty thousand visits, distributed about
five thousand dollars, forty -five thousand garments,
not including a large number of shoes. Besides
these she has given away large quantities of pro-
visions of all kinds, bed-linen and household goods.
Let us follow Aunt Lizzie as she betakes herself
in heat and cold, sunshine and storm, to her labor.
Often before she rises in the morning, and while
she eats her breakfast, she is beset by a number of
people who come on different errands of need. Here
is a poor girl who wants a situation; there is a boy
wliose mother is dying; this woman wishes Aunt
186 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Lizzie to trj and save her wayward child; that old
man entreats her to provide clothing for a needy
household. Endless and varied are their wants, —
money and bread, counsel and comfort.
"Before leaving the house," to quote her own
words, " I found it good to kneel and pray in silence,
to draw close to the tender, loving Christ, for I am
going among the poor. Our Savior was found in the
city streets, in the lanes and allej^s, where the lame
and blind and sick were. If I do His work faith-
fully, I must day by day have divine aid." First,
she climbs a dark stairway and finds the discouraged
mother of many little ones. As she recounts her
troubles and difficulties with a look of agony, Aunt
Lizzie changes her tears to tears of joy, as she prom-
ises her clothing from the benevolent wardrobe and
slips some money into her hand. "The Lord
knows," cries the poor woman, " the Lord knows I
don't know what to say to you, but the Lord knows
how thankful I am."
She next goes out to Blue Island Avenue, where
she visits a widow, a great sufferer for years, whose
two daughters strive in vain to keep the wolf from
the door. She opens her bag and takes out a glass
of jelly, and an orange, pays the rent, and finding
that their only stove is useless and the weather
bitter cold, she purchases them a new one and pro-
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 187
Another family only two weeks in the city, have
sent for Aunt Lizzie; their little boy has just died
suddenly of scarlet fever; the coflBn stands in the
middle of the room on one of their unopened
chests. Everything is in confusion. Sickness has
prevented their even unpacking their goods. Aunt
Lizzie kneels in the midst of the sorrowing group
and cries to Jesus to bind up these broken hearts.
Then she bestirs herself to help them lay the dust
of their child in the grave with that decent mourn-
ing that is as dear to the hearts of the poor as to
those of the rich. In the afternoon siie makes sev-
eral visits in company with one of the charitable
ladies of the church, wading through the snow; as
they come home it is still snowing heavily, and they
follow in the track of four men, who break a path
in the middle of the road.
This is no fancy sketch. These incidents are all
taken from the pages of Aunt Lizzie's diary, and,
with one exception, are all included in her work of
Let us give a day's work of a rather different
While it was yet cool in the early morning, Aunt
Lizzie went to look after her " tried ones," as she
tenderly calls them. As she turned the corner of
an alley, a ragged boy set up a shout that Aunt
Lizzie had come; the children dropped their play
188 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
and gathered around her. She drew them together
in the shade of an old building, and began to sing
to them. In twenty minutes she had gathered a
congregation of thirty-two mothers and children,
to whom she distributed papers and tracts, and then
prayed and sang with them.
Climbing many stairs, she next enters a room,
terrible in its heat and discomfort, yet scrupulously
neat and clean. Here dwell some of the Lord's
own poor. Aunt Lizzie places her bouquet in a
pitcher, where the sick man can enjoy its fragrance,
and as she makes him a glass of lemonade, she lis-
tens to the sorrowful words with which he tells of
his pain and anguish of body, how he dreads the
sleepless night, and with what joy he hails the
morning. " What do you think about in those
long, dreary hours?" asks the kind visitor. "I
feel," answers the sick man, " that my peace is
made with God; nothing troubles me but my rent.
You see we cannot do without a shelter."
"How much do you owe?" asks Aunt Lizzie^
who fully sympathizes with him in disliking the*
very word rent. She knows too well that to the poor
it is a word full of misery, darkness and woe.
" Ten dollars," sighs the sick man, " and I have
no way of raising a cent."
Aunt Lizzie joyfully opens her purse, praising
God that it has just been filled for her, and says:
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 189
" I have the money for you, poor man." His whole
frame shakes with excitement; raising himself up
in bed: " What shall I saj^?" he exclaims; "the
Lord has done it." As they pray together, he be-
comes more calm, and seems to rest.
"The next time I called," goes on the journal, "he
said, 'You know the money you gave me, I could
not wait for the agent to come, but sent it to him;
I have been happy ever since.' I said to him, ' In
these weary hours, give yourself no more anxiety
about 3'Our rent. I have another ten dollars for you
when it is due.' He wept his thanks, but could not
speak. Thus Jesus magnified the gift. All this
weight of gratitude to God and man, all this com-
fort and freedom from care, all this joy cost but ten
She next visits a lowly abode where a little child
lies in pain. A holy joy irradiates the humble
home, whose inmates have learned to repose, with
implicit confidence, on the word of God. "The
secret of the Lord is with the lowly," thinks Aunt
Lizzie, as she bends over the dying child, and hears
him tell of his confidence in the Savior whom he
loves, and the home in the skies to which he is going.
He has heard the story of peace, has welcomed it,
and is blessed beyond the felicities of earth. She
produces her gifts, a tumbler of currant jelly to
make him a cooling drink, and the red peach whicli
190 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
is held lovingly in the thin, hot fingers, and admired
again and again before it is eaten. Then she prays
and sings the familiar Sunday-school hymns, the
child's voice joining in clear and ringing like a silver
bell. Comforted herself she leaves the poor room,
which is after all a gate of heaven.
On the way home to dinner she calls on three
motherless girls. To her joy she finds the two
eldest earnestly inquiring the way to Jesus. Here
she sits down and tenderly tries to take a mother's
place in making clear the gospel to these children
so dear to her heart, and prays that the promises of
God may soon shed light upon their path.
On her table she finds a request to visit a poor
woman who has been very sick, and makes it her
first business in the afternoon to see her. She
learns that the familj'^ has resided in the city a year,
but the woman not being social with her neighbors,
none of them have been in to inquire about her.
Her doctor seeing that she is a sensible person,
though very peculiar and low-spirited, recommends
her to send for Aunt Lizzie, who listens to all her
complaints and tries to soothe her. After reading
the Bible and praying, as is her invariable custom,
Aunt Lizzie tells her that only the Holy Spirit can
touch her eyes and make her see and believe, and
begs her to ask God to help her. " I have very little
faith in the kindly intentions of any one," cried the
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 191
sick woman, " but I believe in you, and thank you
for coming and praying with me. Is it not strange
that I am so indifferent to religion ?" " Only that
can make you happy," Aunt Lizzie tells her, and
leaves her thinking over her relations to God.
In the evening a young man calls, telling her that
he has been to the houses of ten ministers to find
one to marry him, but they were all out of the city.
She tells him that Saturday is considered a bad day
to get married. "But," saj's he, "I have got my
pay and am now ready to take a wife. Why in
thunder don't they commission you to marry folks?"
To which Aunt Lizzie responded by giving him a
card with the address of a clergyman whom she
knew to be in town. In an emergency, she has
sometimes conducted a funeral, but marrying peo-
ple is still beyond her province.
Such records might be made of many of Aunt
Lizzie's days. Not all equal in interest, but many
far surpassing these in actual labor. Often she
makes from ten to fifteen calls, ascends forty flights
of stairs and walks forty or fifty blocks in the course
of the day. Nor is she deterred by the weather;
the bitter winter days which others consider as an
excuse for staying at home, are to her an additional
reason for looking after the necessities of the poor;
these are the times of severest want and suffering.
On the second of January, 1879, the mercury fell to
192 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
twenty-two degrees below zero, the severe cold be-
ing accompanied by a searching wind, which made
it all the more trying. Aunt Lizzie, fearing that
some one would freeze, wrapped herself up as warm-
ly as she could and taking a street-car, started to
the rescue. After riding a few minutes, a gentle-
man sitting opposite accosted her, " Madam," said
he, " though you do not know me, I am well ac-
quainted with you and your good works among the
poor. If you can go out this terrible day to see to
their wants, the least that the rest of us can do is to
help you. Here are orders on my butcher for six
roasts of beef; distribute them as you think best."
Another gentleman added, " Allow me to help in
this time of distress, and to give you orders for
three legs of mutton." "Thank you, gentlemen,"
said Aunt Lizzie, " the poor will bless you for this."
All day, like an angel from heaven, she went from
one perishing family to another bringing to tliem
light and joy. "Where they had no fire, she gave
an order for half a ton of coal, where they were
hungry, she fed them. Ko wonder that the name of
Aunt Lizzie is loved and reverenced among the poor.
Although naturally so exceedingly generous, that
she has been known to take off her bonnet in the
street and give it to some poor, old woman who bad
none, going home herself with a veil over her head,
Aunt Lizzie still is a careful and discriminating al-
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 193
moner of the charities of others; money entrusted
to her is seldom thrown awaj on the unworthy.
Long experience with human nature lias rendered
her so good a judge of faces that she is rarely de-
ceived. Her rule lor giving is this: " The best kind
of charity is to help those who are willing to help
themselves. Promiscuous alms-giving without in-
quiry into the worthiness of the applicant is bad in
every sense; but to search out quietly and assist
those who are struggling for themselves is the kind
that scattereth and yet increaseth. It is not the
true way to give a prayer instead of bread to the
starving. My experience teaches me that it is much
easier to make Christians of people when their bodies
are made comfortable. I must care for the body in
order to reach the soul."
One of the modes of helping the indigent is by
procuring work for them. The little rack behind
her door often holds as many as forty names of those
who have applied to her to find them employment
of different kinds. This aid she extends to large
numbers. In some of our business houses, Aunt
Lizzie's recommendation is of great service to an
applicant. Her helping hand is thus stretched out
to whole families, often for a long period.
During the war, a German soldier named Carl
Schneider, was wounded in the arm and brought tc
Aunt Lizzie's hospital. He was attacked by pneu-
194 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AJKEN.
raonia, and it also became necessary to amputate
his arm. He was thus confined to his cot for a
long time. He had been ediicated a Koman Catho-
lic; but as he lay in his bed and heard Aunt Liz-
zie read the Bible to the wounded men around him,
he drank in the precious truths, and, renouncing
his old faith, became an earnest, happy believer in
the Protestant religion. When well enough to
leave the hospital, he was discharged, and returned
to Chicago, with weak lungs, having sacrificed his
health and strength to his adopted country. Aunt
Lizzie on coming to this city found him very
poor, with a family to care for. She secured him
a situation as switchman on the railroad. Four
years later, consumption developed itself, and he
died after a short illness, leaving his widow and
four children without a relative in this country, and
in great destitution. Aunt Lizzie again came to the
rescue. She had visited the sick man during his
illness, and had the satisfaction of seeing him de-
part a happy believer in Christ. After his death
she procured employment for the mother, and a
situation for the oldest boy, where he could be un-
der the watch-care of a good Christian man.
For three years she watched over the fortunes of
the family, helping them in times of need, and
preaching the gospel to them. The mother and the
two oldest children were brought into the church.
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 195
Then the mother fell ill and died. The four child-
ren clung together for a while, but the oldest girl
had had no trainins' which fitted her to take charg^e
of a family ; and Aunt Lizzie, in her frequent visits
found them so uncomfortable and forlorn, for want
of a little forethought and good management, that
she came to the conclusion that they would be bet-
ter off in diflerent families. She therefore found a
home forEmil, a boy of fifteen, on a farm where he
would be trained to become a useful man, and short-
ly after placed his younger sister, Annie, in a
Christian family near by, where the orphan sister
and brother would have the opportunity of meeting
frequently. Thus she has secured good homes and
a hopeful future for these children.
Helping so many young people, Aunt Lizzie has
learned to study their different characters, and the
calling for which they are best fitted, and to assist
them accordingly. One day an orphan girl called
upon her, saying that she had just come to the city
in search of occupation. Aunt Lizzie perceived in
her at once a very active, intelligent mind, which
had received but little training. She was eager to
learn, but without means. For two years Aunt
Lizzie befriended her. She procured her a home
where she could earn her board by sewing; she
helped her to pay for lessons from the best teach-
ers; she saw that her wardrobe was supplied with
196 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
plain, but sufficient clothing; in short, she acted
the part of a mother to the young student. To-day
this 3"ouug woman is living in a distant city, earn-
ing an independent livelihood as a journalist.
Not to help the lazy, and those who wish to make
a living without work, is as distinctively a part of
Aunt Lizzie's creed as to extend a helping hand to
the struggling. Those that come to her with a
whine that the world owes them a living, receive
no mercy at her hands. " Go and make yourself
a place in the world," is her advice to such, always
Even in more serious capes, her good nature never
fails. One morning before daylight she heard some
one stealing from her woodpile, just under her bed-
room window. She crept from her bed and gently
raised the sash. Directly below her were a woman
and a boy filling their basket from her little store.
No doubt if they had asked she would have given
them more than they could carry away, but as it was,
she was justly indignant that those, in whom she
easily recognized, in the twilight, old recipients of
her bounty, should be so ungrateful. In her softest
tones she began to sing,
'* To do to others as I would
That they should do to me,
Will make me happy, kind and good,
Just as I ought to be."
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 197
The thieving widow recognized the voice, gave a
startled look upward, and fled, leaving her basket
At another time she occupied a parlor, whose
window opened upon a balcony of easy access from
the street. She wakened suddenly one night, with
the feeling that some one had entered the room.
Cautiously looking about her, she saw one man
rifling her bureau drawers, and another standing by
the mantelpiece, on which was her watch. Aunt
Lizzie had lived too long in the army to be afraid
of a couple of burglars, and resolved to frighten
Sitting straight up in bed, she asked in a loud
voice, " What are you looking for, boys? If it is I,
here I am," and shook with laughter as they
dropped everything, rushed for the open window,
leaped from the balcony and ran up the street.
Coolly rising, Aunt Lizzie fastened the window, and
returned to her bed for another nap.
We cannot better close this chapter than by giv-
ing: in Aunt Lizzie's own words her feelino^s towards
the poor, and her opinions on the much vexed sub-
ject of benevolence.
" It does seem to me that to share with the Lord's poor now
and to trust Him to share with me by-and-by is the right sort
of faith. Yet many of my friends remonstrate with me, refer-
ring to my possible loss of health and old age of want. The
198 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
Lord has been so faithful to me, his sinful child, I cannot for a
moment doubt Him; the Lord helps the man that helps the
" Have been looking over my wardrobe to see what I can
gpare. I love the poor, they are my truest friends; I truly be-
lieve they give more than the rich. Money is by no means the
only thing to give in this world ; neither do large gifts contrib-
ute more to the happiness of the receiver than small ones. In
my daily ministrations, conversing with people, I often ask
what or who does most to make them happy. Almost invaria-
bly they tell of some benevolent old clergyman, whose salary
has never been more than enough to barely support him, or of
some poor widow who goes from house to hou-e like an angel
of mercy. It is astonishing how much one can give without
money ; a kind word, a helping hand, the warm sympathy of a
heart that rejoices with those that do rejoice and weeps with
those that weep. No person living is so poor as not to contrib-
ute something to the happiness of those around him. Helpful
acts and helpful words aie better than pearls and diamonds to
strew along the roadside of life, and will yield a valuable
harvest, as we shall find after many days."
" Received a note from a sick woman, asking me to call upon
her. The note stated: ' You are called upon because you are
kind to the poor.' Philanthropy is not religion, but there is no
religion without philanthropy. He that is indifferent to the
poor is not Christian. How to care for the poor is a great ques-
tion. It is to be done not merely by feeding the hungry and
clothing the naked, but yet more by throwing a religious influ-
ence around them. One of the Savior's most delightful dis-
courses, second only to the sermon on the mount, was delivered
at Jacob's well, to but one listener, and she a poor, despised
Samaritan woman. How that encourages my heart to speak
the truths of the gospel to all the solitary listeners I meet."
" Oh God, make me a blessing to those in want and poverty.
LABORS AMONG THE POOR. 199
Let the poor as they pass my ^ave, point to the little spot
and say: "There lies a friend whose unwearied kindness
was the constant relief of my distress, who tenderly visited my
languishing bed, and supplied my suffering wants; who was a
cordial to my dejected spirit, and kindly watched for my
"We propose in this cliapter to give a stetch
of Aunt Lizzie's general work as a Christian wo-
man. Though her time is given almost exclusive-
ly to her vocation as the missionary of a single
church, her sympathies are very broad, and she has
found opportunities to assist in almost every de-
partment of Christian activity. Time would fail
us to tell of all her labors in different directions,
but from a few examples the rest can be inferred.
One Sunday afternoon, Aunt Lizzie on her way to
a Danish Mission Sunday-school, passed a theatre
which, in utter disregard of the Sabbath, was open
for a matinee. A long line of boys, in some of
whom Aunt Lizzie recognized her own Sunday-
school scholars, were buying fifteen and twenty-five
cent tickets. She counted two hundred and eighty
lads and young men. " What, " said she, " will be
the future of a country that so heedlessly permits
the morals of its youth to be sapped ? " Sick at
heart she resolved to pray over this great evil.
LABORS MANIFOLD. 201
A fortnight later, in a prayer-meeting held after
the sermon, the pastor invited those who wished
the prayers of Christians to rise. A gentleman with
a pale face, in a large cloak, rose up on the opposite
side of the room, but after the meeting was dis-
missed, slipped out before any one could accost him.
The next evening at the young people's meeting, a
lady sat directly across the aisle from Aunt Lizzie,
who noticed, every time she looked that way, that
the eyes of the stranger were fastened upon her.
Touched by the sadness of the face, Aunt Lizzie, as
is her custom, at a pause in the meeting began to
sing, "Jesus, lover of my soul," in which the con-
gregation joined. At the words, " Otlier refuge
have I none," the lady was visibly affected, and at
the close of the hymn rose and confessed her need of
Christ. The pastor called upon Aunt Lizzie to
pray. She poured out her soul in faith for the con-
version of the stranger. At the close of the meet-
ing she went immediately to her, introduced herself
and sought to point the way to Christ. The listener
heard her with tears, and, as they parted, invited
her to call at her rooms the next morning at ten
Punctual to the moment. Aunt Lizzie was there.
A little boy, three years old, opened the door for
her, ran back and called, "Come, mamma, here's
grandma," and then climbed at once into the visi-
202 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
tor's lap. The room was elegantly furnished.
What struvsk Aunt Lizzie afterwards as most singu-
lar ornaments, were two mottoes hanging on the
wall, " Nearer, my God, to thee," and " Simply to
thy cross I cling."
A door opened, and the lady entered, accompa-
nied by the pale gentleman whom Aunt Lizzie had
seen on Sunday evening. He was introduced as
the husband and father. Aunt Lizzie was glad to
meet him, as she had regretted his leaving the
church without a word of Christian welcome.
Husband and wife drew their chairs close to her.
" Madam," said the gentleman with his eyes full
of tears, " will you cease to love us when I tell you
our profession ? We are leading actors in a theatre."
Looking up at them. Aunt Lizzie answered, " Can
I cease to love whom Jesus loves? And I know
that Jesus loves you." Taking his wife's hand in
his affectionately, he said, "You must have pecu-
liar sympathy for my wife; her present position is
vny fault, not hers. Sunday evenings, after acting
in the theatre through the afternoon, we have at-
tended your cliurch, and have become so convinced
of our guilt before God, that we have resolved, at
all hazards, to discontinue our connection with the
theatre. We can no longei* profane God's day witli
such practices." Aunt Lizzie proposed that they
should pray together, and after she had pleaded
LABORS MANIFOLD. 203
with God on tlieir belialf, she said, " My son, pray."
He had lived the life of an actor in a low theatre
for five years, but he knew how to pray. He told
God all their sin and cried for pardon.
Afterwards they told Aunt Lizzie that they were
penniless, having squandered all their money, and
asked her to aid them in making an honest living.
She emptied her purse, wiiich contained but three
dollars, into their hands, and went out to get some-
thing for tliem to do. They proved their sincerity
by thankfully accepting the only employment Aunt
Lizzie could find. The delicate woman worked at
the machine, making overalls at a dollar a day,
while her husband made paper bags. In this way
tliey subsisted for some weeks.
After a while, Aunt Lizzie discovered that the
actor had married his wife against the will of her
father. The motherless girl had just graduated
from a young ladies' college, and, full of romantic
notions, fell in love with the handsome actor and
married him. Aunt Lizzie learning that the father
was a Christian, though somewhat stern, wrote him
a kind letter, stating the circumstances. She then
persuaded the daughter to write, but before the
letter was posted, Aunt Lizzie received an answer,
full of love and forgiveness, from the father. The
brother also wrote inviting them to his house.
They went, followed by Aunt Lizzie's entreaties to
204 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
pray and trustingly to wait for the revelation of
God's will concerning them.
A few days after she received a letter stating that
the Lord had provided for their maintenance. The
actor, who had formerly been a compositor, had at
once obtained a situation on a county paper, where
he could make a comfortable living. "We are
happy in Christ," they wrote; "farewell to the
theatre forever; the church shall be our home while
we live." Following letters have proved that this
was no passing sentiment, but their fixed purpose.
Thus, though Aunt Lizzie's prayers did not close
the theatre, tliey plucked as brands from the burn-
ing, its two leading actors.
Aunt Lizzie has always had a very tender anxiety
for all those who, having never known the power of
God, wander off into the darkness of doubt and in-
fideli ty. Strong and true in the faith herself, she can
still recognize the fact that others may not see as
she sees. Instead of denouncing, she pities them.
A couple of extracts from her diary will best show
the workings of her mind on this important subject:
*' I am satisfied every day that I can do more good by being
good myself than in any other way. My varied erperience
teaches me that men differ as to what is right, but all believe
that something is right; they differ as to what is wrong, but all
believe that something is wrong.''
" Called on a drunkard's wife; sought to comfort her with the
words of Jesus. What power there is in those words. Before
LABORS MANIFOLD. 205
infidels can prevent men from thinking as they ever have done
of Christ, they must blot out the gentle words with which, in
the presence of hypocrisy, the Savior welcomed that timid re-
pentance that could only express its silent love in an agony of
tears; thfy must blot out those words addressed to the dying
penitent, who, softened by the patience of the mighty sufferer,
detected, at last, his Savior under the veil of sorrow, and implored
to be remembered by Him when He came into his kingdom;
they must blot out the remembrance of the tears He shed at the
grave of Lazarus, not surely for him whom He was about to raise,
but in pure sympathy with the soitows of humanity, for the
myriad myriads of desolate mourners who could not fly to Him
with Mary, and say, ' Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother
had not died.' Ah, the Bible is true, eveiy word of it; God is
true. Oh, that men could feel their need of a dying, risen Lord,
their need of a Savior."
Aunt Lizzie has found that there is no remedy
for doubt except the Word of God, that the Bible is
its own best witness. Hence in all her encounters
with infidelity, she uses no weapons except those
drawn from its armory.
Some years ago, Aunt Lizzie met an old gentle-
man, who professed to be an infidel. Though sixty
years of age, he had no knowledge of Christ. He
often tried to argue with her, but she, seeing that
he had no wish to know the truth, always refused to
enter into any discussion with him. She told him
that his first great duty was to fear God and keep
His commandments. Whenever he met her on the
street, he sneeringly asked, " Are you still pray-
ing ? " " Yes, " was the invariable reply. " For
206 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
rae ? " " Certainly, " was tlie calm answer. One
day, overcome by lier anxiety for his sonl, she be-
sought him with tears to listen to her pleadings for
Christ, but the old gentleman became very angry
and went off in a rage.
Some time after, he was laid on his death-bed,
and his family, knowing nothing of these en-
counters, sent for Aunt Lizzie to come and see
him. Hearing some one entering the hall, he asked
who it was ; and being told that it was Aunt Liz-
zie, he refused to see her, saying that he would rath-
er see any one than her. Finally, one snowy Sun-
day, he sent for her. When she came into his room
he greeted her cordially, and asked her if she had
ever read " Beecher's Prayers, " a copy of which lay
on a little table by the bed. She said that she had,
and that she admired them. He then called her
attention to a prayer that had deeply impressed
him, headed, " My need of God. " " May I read it
aloud ? " asked Aunt Lizzie, and as he signified his
assent, she slowly read the petition so applicable to
his case, much affected herself, for she hardly had
dared to hope that he would ever show so much in-
terest in anything religions. When she finished,
she said, "If you had asked me, I never could have
framed a petition which would suit you so well ; this
prayer meets your case. " " Yes, " he answered,
" I now own my need of God. Since I have been
LABOBS MANIFOLD. 207
obliged to lie bei-e and think, I feel very differently.
Teach me your plan of salvation, Aunt Lizzie, for
it looks dark, I can't understand it. " Rejoicing
that such an opportunity was at last granted her,
she said that she had no plan of her own, but that
she would read to him the words of Christ. She
read a few verses from the eighteenth chapter of
Matthew, and said, " This is the simplicity of the
gospel ; a child can receive it, and you must become
a child. "
As he offered no opposition, she proceeded, " I
will read a prayer if you will permit," and selected
the fifty-first Psahn. As she finished, he groaned
aloud and said, "Place a mark there, that I may
read that myself, and do pray for me." She knelt
down and besought God to have mercy on the re-
pentant man. As she left him, he said several
times, " I do believe, I do believe." He enjoyed
great peace during his few remaining days, and died
rejoicing in Christ.
Aunt Lizzie has always been a "temperance
woman." With no time to attend the meetinss of
the various temperance societies, she has, neverthe-
less, done the work of a small but active society
herself, always ready to fight against the great de-
stroyer of men's bodies and souls. "While she was
in the hospitals, she gave many private temperance
lectures, holding her audience of one by the collar
208 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
or the button hole. In this way she often saved
her boys from a worse enemy than the Confederates.
Many made her their mother-confessor, and came
to her for aid in their conflicts with temptation.
One youth, who had been drawn into drinking
customs by his fellow-officers, was in the habit,
when he found himself becoming intoxicated, of
flying to Aunt Lizzie, that she might keep him from
the guard-house. She often hid him under the long
table in the convalescents' dining-room, and, on one
occasion, had hardly concealed him, when the offi-
cer of the day came to arrest him. She sometimes
threatened to expose him to his father, if he did not
reform, but could never find it in her heart to do
80. To-day, mainly through her entreaties and ex-
hortations, he is a strictly temperate man, holding
a high position.
Often, when convalescents were left behind to
assist in the hospitals, they yielded to the tempta-
tion to drink to excess. Aunt Lizzie frequently
came to their rescue by procuring orders for them
to rejoin their regiments, at the front. All through
the war, she proved herself, in this respect, the best
friend of the soldiers.
When she came to Chicago, she continued the
same line of work. Though she has never been
able to induce any saloon-keeper to close his bar,
she has prevailed upon a large number of drunk-
LABORS MANIFOLD. 209
ards to enter the "Wasliingtonian Home, of wliicb
she is a director. She finds that she must add ex-
postulation to prayer, and many a man, devoted to
his cups, has found Aunt Lizzie's prayers and en-
treaties too powerful for him to resist.
At times she has been a frequent visitor at the
Bridewell, first going there when she labored on
the south side of the city, to carry pardons that she
had procured for erring girls, whom she hoped to
save. Afterwards, she attended many of the Sun-
day afternoon services held for the benefit of the
prisoners. We copy an extract from her diary.
" Nov. 12th, 1876. — Rode this afternoon, nine miles, out to
the Bridewell to hold a meeting. I never was more divinely
aided by God than on this occasion. The sight was truly ap-
palling to me; over four hundred men and women; so many
young girls, poor, helpless women ! The sight quite overcame
me. I asked Deacon Albro to pray for me that I might be able
to deliver my message for, and in the name of Jesus. The
Holy Spirit's presence was manifested in unusual power. My
own heart was brought into sweet fellowship with God, as I
stood before them, and besought them, in Christ's name to
Beek peace with God, and not to delay another hour. Over
three hundred rose for prayer. I knelt down and cried to God
on their behalf."
In her visits to dififerent parts of the State, to
attend Sunday-school conventions and other relig-
ious gatherings. Aunt Lizzie has always made good
her opportunities to help on the great work of sal-
vation. Two of her visits to different colleges for
210 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
girls have seemed worthy of record. The first was
when she attended a meeting of the State Conven-
tion held in Greenville. She was invited to speak
before the students of Almira College, but at first
she refused. "What message," said she, "can an
uneducated woman like myself have to those young
ladies?" Shortly after, when strongly urged, she
went. The young ladies were gathered in the
chapel. Aunt Lizzie looked round upon them, and
was impressed with the thought that they, as well
as others, needed the religion of Christ. She rose
and told them of her mother, who had trained her
to be a Christian ; then she reminded them of their
own mothers, and that they must depend upon the
same Savior, who had been the support of their pa-
rents. She asked if any among them were moth-
erless. A number raised their hands. " My dear
young ladies," she cried, "you of all others most
need this precious Savior and Friend — you who
have no mother to love and guide you." Then,
knowing their necessities and the trials that would
assail them, she urged them to make their life a
religious one — not in selfish seclusion, but among
their associates and in the world. All were melted
to tears, and many resolutions to lead a true and
noble life were made. At the close of the service,
Aunt Lizzie stood in the doorway and spoke to
each of the sixty girls as they passed out, repeating
LABORS MANIFOLD. 211
to each a special promise from tlie Scriptures. Her
wonderful familiaritj with the Bible is shown bj
her ability thus, on the spur of the moment, to re-
call sixty different texts applicable to the occasion.
At another time she visited Illinois Female Col-
lege, where she gave an address of such power and
unction, that one soul, at least, was saved by it.
The same evening she received a note from one of
the professors, calling upon her to rejoice with him
over the conversion of his daughter, who had been
led to decide for Christ, by Aunt Lizzie's tender en-
While Aunt Lizzie might be classed among the
home-missionaries, her sympathies have never been
confined to her particular field. She has always
been an enthusiastic supporter of foreign missions.
Though she has not been able to carry the story of
the cross to the heathen, she has given of her small
income to help those who have gone, and has sent,
at least, one of her " dear girls," to represent her in
the East. When about fifteen years of age, she at-
tended a meeting in Auburn, New Tork, where
Mrs. Wade, a missionary to Burmah, presented the
claims of the vast, dark East to the pity and aid of
Christians. Lizzie had no money in her pocket, but
when the collection was taken, took off a new gold
chain fro.n her neck, and put it into the basket.
The zeal then kindled in her heart has never died
212 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
out, and she lias always given far beyond her means
to this object.
Her sending a representative to the field, came
about in this way. One day, some years since, she
was called to visit an orphan girl, who was very ill,
in the hospital. Aunt Lizzie saw that she had a fine.
Well cultivated mind, and a noble nature, and led
her, by prayer and careful instruction, to the Savior.
When the young Christian grew strong enough to
leave the hospital. Aunt Lizzie found her a situa-
tion as teacher in an Orphan Asylum, where she re-
mained for some time. Afterwards, feeling herself
called to work more actively for the Master, she be-
came first a home missionary, and finally went
abroad to bear the glad tidings of the gospel to the
benighted women of India.
Instances might be multiplied where Aunt Liz-
zie's example and precepts have led others into the
same blessed labor to which she has consecrated her
life. She counts among her friends several ladies,
connected with the home mission work, who caught
their first inspiration while visiting the poor with
her in Chicago.
She has also labored quietly for many years in
behalf of the feeble churches of our Western country.
Every year she sends a box of clothing, as her own
special contribution, to some destitute home-mis-
sionary, and has procured libraries for many strug-
LABORS MANIFOLD. 21 S
gling Sunday-schools. She has bought with mon-
ey given her, for her own personal needs, by army
friends, five communion sets for poor churches, and
has subscribed for benevolent objects an amount of
money, almost incredible when her circumstances
are considered. Some years ago, she made this en-
try in her journal, " I have been privileged during
the last six years to give away nine hundred dol-
Though she cannot always tell where she will
find the money when she makes her subscriptions,
tliey have never yet failed of being paid. How
this comes about will easily be seen from the fol-
lowing extract from a letter:
"Last Sunday our annual collection for our Bridgeport Mis-
sion School was taken. Most earnestly did I pray God to open
the hearts of the people to supply the wants of the church. I
signed five dollars, trusting in God for the money. That after-
noon, when on my way to visit one of my sick teachers, I was
met by a gentleman and his wife. He is not a Christian. He
handed me five dollars saying, ' I wish to pay your morning
subscription. Your devotion to your religion reminds me of
my beloved mother now in heaven.' God grant that I may
lead this man to trust in his Lord."
It may not always be best to subscribe money
for benevolent objects, when we have not the means
to pay our pledges, still. Aunt Lizzie has tried the
plan for many years, and has found that, if she ia
willing to deny herself even the necessaries of life,
214 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
in order to give, she is seldom obliged to do so, but
the money is provided in some unexpected manner.
That her other home mission labors are quite ex-
tensive, may be seen from the following extract
from her diary, which refers to one of several places
where she has helped organize Sunday-schools and
*' Saturday, May 12th, 1877.
"At four o'clock took the train for W. Four years ago, for the
first time, I visited this people, when I organized and estab-
lished a woman's meeting. Forty ladies were present, and
pledged themselves to sustain it; nobly have they fulfilled their
"At my next visit I started a children's meeting, which has
been blessed to the salvation of souls. The next year a Bap-
tist church was organized. They now have a neat little
Nor are Aunt Lizzie's sympathies restricted to
the church. As we have seen, owing to the ill-
health of her mother, the care of the family de-
volved upon her when she was still a young girl, and
she was prevented from obtaining an education.
Her intense disappointment and regret that she
could not gratify her thirst for knowledge, has
made her always a friend and helper of students.
For them she has ever an encouraging word, and a
She was in Peoria, earning her living as a nurse,
when the University of Chicago was founded. Her
little farm at Brimfield had been rented ; five cows,
LABORS MANIFOLD. 215
belonging to her, were still there. She had been
deeply interested in the University from the very
first, and when an agent came to Peoria, soliciting
funds for its support, she gave, as her contribution,
forty dollars, the price of one of her cows. If Aunt
Lizzie's purse were as large as her heart, there
would no longer be any necessity for lamentation
over churches in debt, or unendowed institutions
Yet the story of Aunt Lizzie's life would be in-
complete, if it did not include her arduous labors
after the great fire of 1871.
On the fatal Sunday evening, when the fire be-
gan, she sat in church with her friend, Mrs. Irons,
who was, at that time, living in Chicago. The next
morning, alarmed for her safety. Aunt Lizzie start-
ed for her house, but met her flying from the flames.
Aunt Lizzie, being less excited, saw that there was
no immediate danger, and persuaded her friend to
return, and together they succeeded in rescuing a
part of the household goods, and the portrait of
Colonel Irons. Aunt Lizzie then conducted Mrs.
Irons to a place of safety, and went on her way to
help find shelter for other unfortunates.
Tuesday morning, Aunt Lizzie went to the Con-
gregational Church, on the corner of Washington
and Green streets, to ofier her services. Mr. Sni-
der the chairman of the committee for feeding the
216 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
multitude, at once appointed her to superintend tlie
young ladies and gentlemen, who were busj pre-
paring meals from the provisions that already be-
gan to pour in from neighboring towns. This work
she continued for two days, seeing that the tables
were supplied as quickly as they were cleared by
the hungry crowds that flocked there to be fed.
On Thursday, the committee were obliged to va-
cate the church, which was needed by the city gov-
ernment for other purposes. They decided to move
to the Scotch Presbyterian Church, and Mr. Snider
announced that in two hours and a half they would
feed the people at that place. "Now," cried Aunt
Lizzie, " let us show them in how short a time a
regiment can be moved." All worked with a will,
and in less than the prescribed time two hundred
were seated and eating in the Scotch Church.
On Saturday, the Second Baptist Church was
turned into a hospital, and Aunt Lizzie was called
home to help care for the sick. Here she woi'ked
with the other ladies of the congregation for nearly
a month. The main audience room of the church
was converted into a lodging-room; the Bible-class
room was a hospital, and the infant-class room was
a refectory. The halls were full of provisions and
clothing. All winter the work of distribution went
on, people standing in long lines, even in the se-
verest weather, to receive whatever could be given
LABORS MANIFOLD. 217
away. Donations came from all parts of the coun-
try, and still, during the first months of the winter,
Aunt Lizzie wrote to her friends only to apply to
them for aid. Whatever time she could spare from
the work at the church was devoted to visiting the
sufferers in the hastily built barracks.
During all the years that have elapsed since Aunt
Lizzie left Memphis, she has been followed by the
friendship and kindness of her " soldier boys " and
their families. At first they sent her frequent gifts
of mone}^ but finding that she gave it all away in
charity, they gradually changed the form of their
gifts, and now send her articles of dress instead,
keeping her wardrobe supplied with many things
that she would not think of buying, ^j number-
less acts of kindness, and frequent visits, they have
proved how dear she is to their hearts. With
" Mother Sturgis," she maintained a correspondence
for some years. Five years ago they met, for the
last time, in Peoria, and parted on the bridge in
Spring street, the same spot w^here, thirteen years
before, they had pledged themselves to labor togeth-
er in the hospitals.
An elaborate analysis of Aunt Lizzie's character
will not be needed; the whole story of her life
proves that she is no ordinary woman. Still, the
salient points of her disposition reveal so distinct-
ly the causes of her success, that we may be par-
doned for enumerating them.
Energy that never tires, and enthusiasm that at
times seems akin to genius, are tempered in her char-
acter by rare common sense, and even shrewdness.
The latter trait is illustrated in an amusing manner
by the following incident: An old gentleman and
his wife, former friends of Aunt Lizzie, when she
lived on Rock River, called upon her in Chicago.
They surprised her by saying that they had forsaken
the religion in which they had formerly believed, and
had embraced Spiritualism. They averred that she
would share their faith, if she would give the least
attention to the matter. To satisfy them, she accept-
ed their invitation to accompany them to a seance,
and judge for herself. In a darkened room, spirits
PROMINENT TRAITS. 219
of the departed were supposed to coraraunicate witli
their friends. Voices were heard, and hands were
thrust out from the shadow. One of the latter,
Aunt Lizzie was told, belonged to her sister Roxy,
who had been dead for twenty years. " If it is my
sister's hand," thought she, " 1 have a perfect right
to take hold of it." Immediately she seized it in
both her own, and, turning to her aged friends, ex-
claimed: " Do spirits possess flesh and bones, as I
see this creature has?" The "spirit" struggled
to free itself from her grasp, but Aunt Lizzie held
it firmly, and proceeded: " The Bible says, 'flesh
and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God.' "
The seance broke up suddenly; Aunt Lizzie's lack
of faith prevented any further spiritual manifesta-
From her earliest childhood she has always been
distressed at the sight of suffering, and has been
utterly incapable of inflicting it on even the mean-
est creature. Yet so intense is her sympathy and
desire to help, that the young girl who indignantly
rejected her father's offer of a new silk dress, on
condition that she would kill a turkey for dinner,
stood, as a woman, by the soldier's cot, and held
his hand, that she might help him endure some
The trait of her character, that most frequently
gets the better of Aunt Lizzie, is her generosity.
220 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
It might almost be termed a passion. "Tell me,"
I said to her one day, "what became of all your
household goods — you had such stores of everything
of the kind, at the beginning." " O," was tlie an-
swer, as if it were the most natural thing in the
world, " I gave the greater part of them away."
Mrs. Irons frequently writes to her such words
as these : " My sister Lizzie's tokens of love are in
every nook and corner of our little home. My eyes
cannot turn in any direction without seeing some-
thing tliat you have placed there." r'nt the most
striking instances of her generosity are to be seen in
her dealings with the poor. "We have already noted
some of them. We will give one more: Coming
home, one wet niglit, she found a poor, forlorn girl
waiting to see her. The wretched creature had no
shelter, and was clothed in rags. As she told of
her misery, she lifted her tattered skirt and showed
her feet, blue with cold, and encased only in a pair
of old shoes. Aunt Lizzie saw hanging on the
clothes-horse near by, a pair of her own woollen
stockings just ironed. "Here," said she, "poor
child, put these on." Her landlady remonstrated:
"Aunt Lizzie," she exclaimed, " what are you about?
you know very well that you have not another pair
of woollen stockings in the world, except those on
your feet; you have given away all the rest."
" Never mind," was the answer, " she needs them
PROMINENT TRAITS. 221
more than I; God will provide." The poor girl
went away warmed and fed. The next afternoon,
Aunt Lizzie was invited out to tea. Durinor the
evening her hostess showed her a quantity of new
clothing, and, seeing in the corner of the bureau
drawer a pile of thick woollen stockings, said, " Take
two pair. Aunt Lizzie, these were knit for me by
a kind old relative in the country, but I never wear
them." Thus the Lord returned to her double what
she gave away.
Her energy exhibits itself in the vigor with which
she prosecutes her work. Karely indeed does her
diary record a day spent in attending to her own
aflfairs. JSl either the severest weather, nor the most
untoward circumstances prevent her from adminis-
tering to the needy. During the prevalence of the
epizootic, when no horses were seen in the streets of
Chicago, Aunt Lizzie, visiting the poor, walked a
long distance, and, when too weary to take another
step, found herself far from home. Help was, how-
ever, at hand; two young men, members of her own
congregation, saw her sitting dejectedly on a door-
step, and understanding the case at a glance, went
for a buggy and dragged her home themselves.
In seeking for the cause of Aunt Lizzie's success,
we find that she lives a life of faith. She most
thoroughly believes that if God gives her work to
do, He will bestow the ability to perform it. Those
222 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
who have heard her pray must have felt that she
has the utmost confidence in God. She never seems
to have any doubt of her Guide, or of His interest
in her as an individual. This gives her great pow-
er. Being thoroughly converted herself, she can
work for others.
A strong religious instinct lies at the very basis
of her nature. From her childliood she has de-
lighted in studying the Bible, and her soul has been
filled with love and reverence for God. " My Sab-
baths," she writes in her diary, " are my days of
delight. The other days of this short life seem
like a passing dream. I always look with anxiety
to the weather. I watch the clouds, and my heart
'feels easy only when I enter the sanctuary of the
Lord. I ask God to help me worship Him this day,
at least, with an undivided affection."
Joined to this trust in God, we find a cheerful,
courageous disposition, that makes the best of every-
thing, and is not daunted by ditiiculties. Great
as have been her troubles, she does not brood over
them, seldom ever mentions them, so that many
persons who have been acquainted with her for years
know nothing of her greatest sorrow — her long sep-
aration from her husband. She does not wear her
heart upon her sleeve, but putting her own griefs
aside, she rejoices in all that is good, and adapts
herself easily to the circumstances of others.
PROMINENT TRAITS. 223
PlijsicaUy, slie has always been a woman capable
of great and continued exertion. The surgeons,
with whom she labored in the hospitals, often re-
marked the steadiness of her nerves in the most
trying moments, and knew that, whoever might
flinch, they could always rely upon Aunt Lizzie.
This nervous strength gives her the power of
bringing things to pass, which she possesses to a
Those who have read the extracts from her diary,
in some of the chapters of this book, need not be told
that Aunt Lizzie possesses a superior intellect.
Yet these excei-pts give but a faint idea of the elo-
quence with which she sometimes speaks on a sub-
ject which excites and interests her. Aunt Lizzie
often regrets her lack of education, but she has been
endowed with gifts that education could hardly have
It is due to Aunt Lizzie to say that it was with
the greatest difficulty that I drew from her the facts
concerning her work. She invariably began to
speak in praise of some one else, and had to be con-
tinually interrupted with the question, " But what
did you do. Aunt Lizzie ? " or with the remark,
" That is all very well, but I am trying to find out
something about yourself" She generally answered
that her mother always taught her not to speak of
herself. The principal facts recorded in this book,
224 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
have been drawn from letters written to her nearest
relatives and friends, and from her diary, written, in
later years, for no eye save her own.
Only once daring her twelve years in Chicago,
has she allowed her private sorrows to interfere with
her labors. She had not visited her widowed niotlv
er for many years, but in 1869 she had saved suffi-
cient money to take her to Vermont, and had made
every preparation to spend her short vacation at the
old homestead. But her sister Laura was ill in Illi-
nois, and the anxious mother wrote that she pre-
ferred that Lizzie should care for her sister. Thus
she lost the last opportunity of seeing her aged
parent on earth.
When Laura had recovered, and Aunt Lizzie was
again at her work in Chicago, Mrs, Atherton could
not repress her longing to see her oldest child. She
begged her, if she could not come to her, to write
her a long, comforting letter. The aged lady was
sitting, apparently in perfect health, knitting a
stocking for her absent daughter, when the letter
was handed her. She read it through, prayed fer-
vently for her child, then went to her own room, and
in a few minutes was found, by her grandchildren,
in a dying condition.
Aunt Lizzie, as she started on her day's round of
visits, met the post-man at the door. When he
handed her the black-edged letter, she ran back to
PROMINENT TRAITS. 225
the old lady, with whom she lived: " My mother
has gone. I am sure it is my mother," she cried.
She read the letter on her knees, and spent the day
alone with God. The last earthly prop had been
removed, and she was overcome by the most poign-
Aunt Lizzie never could have accomplished half
that she has been enabled to do as missionary, but
for the perfect confidence placed in her by the
church for which she labors, and their hearty ap-
preciation of her worth. They also act as her spe-
cial guardian, watching over her tenderly and car-
ing for her, knowing, as they do, how completely
she ignores herself.
Her own love for them is most beautifully ex-
pressed in her journal, on the occasion of a severe
illness: *' How I have enjo)'ed these few days at
home. All my thinkings and doings are now with
God. He is my all in all. I feel such a sacred
nearness to my Savior. I lean my weary, worn-out
head upon Him. What a privilege thus to un-
burden my whole heart — my tried and weary, my
tempted and sorrowful heart; tried by sin, tried by
Satan, tried by those I love. Precious Jesus, how
amply hast thou met my every want, and cared for
all my necessities of body, soul and spirit. Thou
hast put love into the hearts of all my dear sisters,
who are so tender, and kind, and loving to thy
226 THE STORY OF AUNT LIZZIE AIKEN.
lonely one, bearing with all my many infirmities,
and helping me patiently to endure my weaknesses.
My grateful heart blesses Thee, my God, for plac-
ing me in this dear church. My selfish soul longs
to breathe out its last moments on earth, here in
the bosom of this church, with these dear sisters to
watch over me, and finally to close my eyes, when
I shall re-open them in glory. O, to be there; O,
to see Jesus face to face. But a little while, and I
shall be forever with my Lord."
TO THE READER :
If by reading " The Story of Aunt Lizzie Aiken" you have
learned to love her, will you aid her by recommending the book
to others ? Could you not secure an order for one or more
The profit on all books sold by the undersigned is devoted
to a fund for the benefit of Aunt Lizzie.
The book will be sent postpaid on receipt of $i.oo.
MISS ELLEN M. SPRAGUE,
350 Marshfield Ave., Chicago, 111.
.A23 The stoiy of Aunt Lizzie
.A23 The story of Aunt
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SAUK VALLEY COLLEGE
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